The Invitations of Christmas, Come, Return

Re-calibrating my heart to God’s invitations.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins be like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18

Long before I knew anything about the Old Testament prophets like Hosea and Isaiah quoted here, and long before I was aware of an invitation coming my way, God was initiating toward me.

I’d always believed in God. Church and youth group were part of my upbringing. I’m so thankful for these traditions started in my family. My high school guidance counselor recommended Hope College because of its association with the church our family attended at the time.

But during my years at Hope, my heart was opened to another reality. Church was supposed to be more than a Sunday morning activity, more than a Christian tradition. It was not something I did just because I was Protestant.

“I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know GOD, not go to more prayer meetings.” Hosea 6:6, The Message

The ah-ha came during the fall of my sophomore year at Hope. That night our college-aged youth group hosted a singing group from another campus. Their message in song and story connected with me. They spoke of a personal relationship with God. Being a Christian was more than their religion, it was a relationship with God, it was their identity. They shared about the gift of Jesus who was born a human baby to pay the penalty for my misdeeds, to be the sacrifice for me. Jesus was a gift from God offered to me, a gift to be received.

The ah-ha demanded a response and so with my good friend, Shirley and a gal from the other campus, I prayed. I thanked Jesus for taking the penalty for my sin. And I told him I wanted to receive him, that gift of relationship, of friendship.

“‘Come, Sit down. Let’s argue this out.’ This is GOD’s Message: ‘If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white. If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool.'” Isaiah 1:18, The Message

Two significant things happened that night:

1. I returned to my dorm a different person. Not only did I believe in God, I had now received the gift of becoming part of his family.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12, italics mine.

This verse has been a favorite since then. It’s recorded in my prayer journal and I often allow it to remind me of my true identity.

2. Shirley introduced me to Bible study as a way to listen to God, to develop my new found relationship. My Bible was no-longer just a history book to be read.

Over the years as my new-found relationship with Jesus has grown, other Bible verses have become special to me like I John 3:1 which speaks of both the depth of God’s love for me and also the truth of my identity.

“What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it–we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are.” I John 3:1, The Message

And those Old Testament prophets … there is still a lot I don’t understand. But I do see their contribution to my story. Their words often express my heart. I’m thankful that because of Jesus, my sins are as “white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). And as Hosea communicates, the Lord continues to come to me, to woo me to return, so I respond and come.

Like the invitation to come and have breakfast with Jesus this invitation to return is always out there for me, for us.

Gifts are only gifts when they are received. This Christmas what will it look like for you to receive the gifts offered to you by God?

If you want a fellow-sojourner to talk more about this or to pray with you like Shirley did with me, come … my invitation is for you, my door is open, the tea kettle is on.

If you missed the other invitations I’ve shared on Echoes of Grace, I invite you to visit them…

November 30, Come, all who Labor and are Heavy Laden.
December 6, Come and Have Breakfast.

Next week, December 21, Come and Worship.




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