John Ortberg is senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.
The greatest Christmas carol in history was not written by Irving Berlin or Nat King Cole. The greatest carol is not “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” or “White Christmas” or even “Silent Night.” The greatest carol was composed 2,000 years ago by a pregnant teenage girl who was visiting her cousin Elizabeth.
A study done a few years ago showed that a sign of a person’s incompetence is his or her inability to perceive incompetence. Nowhere does this inability to have an objective, accurate, reality-based view of our performance show itself more than in the spiritual realm. When it comes to moral character, purity of heart or duplicity in actions, how many of us have given serious thought to how our lives would be graded in the eyes of a holy, just, righteous, truth-telling God?
When I was in first grade, teachers assigned students to reading groups based on how well they could read. They would name all the groups after birds so that everyone would feel equal, but you could always tell how well you were doing by what bird your group was named after. There were the Eagles, the Robins and the Pigeons. The Pigeons were not reading War and Peace .
I grew up in an era before video, Veggie Tales or Bible-based computer games. I was raised, at least in terms of religious education, on the flannelgraph. To this day, although I know that the scriptures are peopled with characters of texture and nuance, I think of Bible people and see pastel paper figures pressed on a felt board.
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