“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” – (I John 3:16-18)
“Real love is an action, not a feeling. It produces selfless, sacrificial giving. The greatest act of love is giving oneself for others. How can we lay down our lives? By serving others with no thought of receiving anything in return.” – (NIV footnotes)
The greatest example ever given, was born to us, and is remembered each Christmas. Jesus was the ultimate example of what love is, for He loved with His very life. He stepped down from heaven, and became God with us – demonstrating again and again how to love with actions and in truth. As the only One who was fully God and fully man, there were so many “could have done’s” along the way, yet He chose instead, each time, to model love. He drew near to those whom society deemed undesirable, and He touched the untouchables. His love broke down social, racial and religious barriers, and encouraged all who came near, to love as He loved.
Though this blessed day of remembering is nearing an end, our command to love will remain. How can we carry Christmas with us as we approach the coming year? What can we give of ourselves to others, as He has given unto us?
What can I give?
Unto You Lord,
my great, mighty King.
My heart, You have,
and likewise, my life;
what of my time,
resource and supply?
Anew I ask,
how might I show love;
to honor You,
so You’re known above?
Lead me, I pray,
show me how to move;
let Your love shine,
so people see You.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You chose to come close – to draw near to us and show us that You are love. Thank You that You loved so much, that You sent Your One and Only Son, so that we may receive all that You are offering. Forgive us for giving with expectations, or for withholding, where You would have us to give more of ourselves. Teach us to trust You more, so that we may more clearly hear Your voice and Your instructions for the coming year. May we love as we are loved by You, and may many come into a lasting relationship with You. All glory to You, our great and mighty King. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
American Minute by Bill Federer
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1492, Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground on the island of Haiti. Columbus left 40 men and named the settlement la Navidad, promising to return the next year.
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1777, Captain James Cook discovered Christmas Island, the largest atoll in the Pacific, where he observed eclipse of the sun.
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1946, President Harry S Truman lit the National Christmas Tree, saying:
“Our…hopes of future years turn to a little town in the hills of Judea where on a winter’s night two thousand years ago the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.
Shepherds keeping the watch by night over their flock heard the glad tidings of great joy from the angels of the Lord singing, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth, peace, good will toward men.’
The message of Bethlehem best sums up our hopes tonight.
If we as a nation, and the other nations of the world, will accept it, the star of faith will guide us into the place of peace as it did the shepherds on that day of Christ’s birth long ago.”
The next year, on Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1947, President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree, stating:
“Down the ages from the first Christmas through all the years of nineteen centuries, mankind in its weary pilgrimage through a changing world has been…strengthened by the message of Christmas.
The angels sang for joy at the first Christmas in faraway Bethlehem.
Their song has echoed through the corridors of time and will continue to sustain the heart of man through eternity…
A humble man and woman had gone up from Galilee out of the City of Nazareth to Bethlehem…
St. Luke’s brief chronicle that Mary ‘brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’…
At this point in the world’s history, the words of St. Paul have greater significance than ever before.
He said: ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.'”
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1948, President Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree and stated:
“The moving event of the first Christmas was the bringing forth of the first born in the stable in Bethlehem.
With one accord we receive with joy…the message of the first Christmas…
What could be more appropriate than for all of us to dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace on this Holy Night…”
“The religion which came to the world heralded by the song of the Angels has endured for nineteen centuries…It remains today the world’s best hope for peace if the world will accept its fundamental teaching that all men are brothers.
‘God that made the world and all things therein…hath made of one blood all nations of man for to dwell on all the face of the earth.’
In the spirit of that message from the Acts of the Apostles, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas.”
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1949, President Harry S Truman lit the National Christmas Tree, stating:
“The first Christmas had its beginning in the coming of a Little Child…Through that child love…the love of the Holy Family could be shared by the whole human family…
I have been reading again in our family Bible some of the passages which foretold this night. It was that grand old seer Isaiah who prophesied in the Old Testament the sublime event which found fulfillment almost 2,000 years ago.
Just as Isaiah foresaw the coming of Christ, so another battler for the Lord, St. Paul, summed up the law and the prophets in a glorification of love which he exalts even above both faith and hope.
We miss the spirit of Christmas if we consider the Incarnation…a far-off event unrelated to our present problems.
We miss the purpose of Christ’s birth if we do not accept it as a living link which joins us together in spirit as children of the everliving and true God.
In love alone – the love of God and the love of man – will be found the solution of all the ills which afflict the world today…
With increasing purpose, emerges the great message of Christianity…
In the spirit of the Christ Child – as little children with joy in our hearts and peace in our souls – let us, as a nation, dedicate ourselves anew to the love of our fellowmen…the message of the Child of Bethlehem, the real meaning of Christmas.”
On Christmas Eve, DECEMBER 24, 1952, President Harry S Truman lit the National Community Christmas Tree, stating:
“As we light this National Christmas tree tonight, here on the White House lawn – as all of us light our own Christmas trees in our own homes – we remember another night long ago.
Then a Child was born in a stable. A star hovered over, drawing wise men from afar. Shepherds, in a field, heard angels singing…That was the first Christmas and it was God’s great gift to us…
Year after year it brings peace and tranquility to troubled hearts in a troubled world.
And tonight the earth seems hushed, as we turn to the old, old story of how‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’
Let us remember always to try to act and live in the spirit of the Prince of Peace. He bore in His heart no hate and no malice-nothing but love for all mankind. We should try as nearly as we can to follow His example…
We believe that all men are truly the children of God. As we worship at this Christmastide, let us worship in this spirit…
Through Jesus Christ the world will yet be a better and a fairer place…
I wish for all of you a Christmas filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and many years of future happiness with the peace of God reigning upon this earth.”
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As we have traveled through the season of Advent, my pastor has taught a series on the attributes of God, which He imparts to us, as a gift through the sending of His Son. The four weeks have covered, peace, hope, joy, and finally yesterday, love.
Jesus, is God’s gift of love to us, as He sent us His one and only Son. (1 John 4:9-10) The love of God is so great, that it covers us with the commitment of His very life. His love is agape – love that genuinely and exclusively seeks the good of others, rather than one that might expect something in return. Christ’s love was so vast, that He set aside the robes of majesty, and took on the role of a man, so that we might know love. (paraphrasing Pastor Jon McIntosh)
In John 13:1-12, Jesus shows the full extent of His love for the disciples, as He takes on the role of the lowliest of servants, and kneels to wash the filth from the feet of His friends. The washing of another’s feet, would have made the one who was washing, completely unclean. Feet were filthy, and to touch them, would have been a wretched violation of plenty of purity laws. Jesus was modeling to the men that it matters not what it takes, when we love, we must be willing to set aside ourselves, and serve. His serving, left the disciples cleansed and refreshed, despite personal cost.
Philippians 2:5-8 encourages us to have the attitude of a servant, just as was seen through Christ. The love described in Philippians, is humble and obedient to God, willing to love with His very life. Such love is unshakeable, and will remain forever. (See also: Isaiah 54:10, Romans 8:38-39)
so the world might know;
the height and depth,
of love truly shown.
Love seeks not self,
records not the wrongs;
is patient, kind,
fills hearts with sweet songs.
Where there is Love,
peace too, shall be found;
for where Christ dwells,
all goodness abounds.
Love seeks to serve,
do unto others;
cares for each one,
as sisters, brothers.
Love will endure,
none can remove,
the Ancient of Days.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the glorious gift of Your Son, Jesus, whom You sent to us so that we might know Love. Thank You that we set aside this season to remember the blessed birth, the arrival of God with us. Forgive us for allowing anything to distract or taint the significance of this season, and help us to hold fast to that which truly matters. May we learn to love as You loved, and be Your hands and heart to those who are hurting this Christmas. May many come to know the limitlessness of Your everlasting love this season. May our every attitude and action be as You would have us do, and may our every offering be pleasing unto You. We love You, Lord. Amen.
*Scripture references taken from yesterdays sermon at http://www.gcfw.org
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
Christmas is a remembrance of when Love came near. God, came in flesh, so that all might know the saving grace that is available through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, the Light unto the world, and the good Shepherd to all whom believe.
In John 10:11, it says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Though few of us have much exposure to present-day shepherds, what I can gather from footnotes and other resources that I have read, is that shepherds treat their sheep as family, and are willing to lay down their own life to keep each of them safe from harm. A shepherd’s love and commitment to care for his flock is not a paid position, but rather one’s chosen duty as he cares for each sheep as if it were his own precious progeny.
Jesus, throughout scripture, is called the Good Shepherd. He is the ultimate example of one who loves us with His very life, and cares for each of us, individually. When we make the decision to follow Him, we become the sheep of His flock – the people of His pasture. The cross was endured on our behalf, so that we are forgiven and freed from all that would lead us away from the security of our Good Shepherd; and His resurrection and the sending of His Holy Spirit, provide us with the ability to hear and obey His voice, as well as the power to hold fast to the promise of our eternal hope. What a treasured song to sing, when His glad tidings we choose to bring.
in flesh, became man;
still fully holy,
for us, came to stand.
The Light of the world,
came down to the earth;
an innocent child,
lowly stable birth.
Announced by angels,
to shepherds in field;
for they knew of love,
Baby became man,
Good Shepherd to all;
who choose to follow,
and answer His call.
For He gave His life,
so our life we’d gain;
the truth to proclaim.
Sing out, fellow sheep,
glad tidings to share;
for His hope is ours,
rejoice in His care.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our Good Shepherd. Thank You that You know us and love us, individually. Thank You that You willingly laid down Your life, so that we could have life with You forever. Forgive us for allowing the worries of the world to steal our joy, and help us to rejoice in the promises that are ours forever. Help us to share the great news of who You are, and may many receive the gift of You this Christmas. May we love as You love, so that Your light is evident in all that we say and do. May our actions be announcements of Your goodness and grace. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
Just over three months ago, a very dear friend of mine breathed her last breath. She had fought long and hard, a battle that would have caused many to quit, yet never in the nine years of the invasion of that devastating disease, did Anne even once, allow cancer to define her. She knew with all certainty that she was above all, a child of God. Her faith in our Heavenly Father did not waiver, regardless of what the doctors had told her.
Her perseverance and unwavering faith, are two of the things that I most admired about Anne. So often, she would extend encouragement to those who were providing her medical care. Laughter and light-hearted banter were common during many of her appointments. The verse that brought her great comfort in her final days was 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” For she had indeed fought and finished in firm faith.
A dear friend asked me how I might remember Anne this Christmas. I was a bit taken aback, as avoidance has been my coping mechanism of choice. However, it is nearly impossible to navigate this season without reminders of my dear friend, as we have had many outings in this most blessed of seasons gone by. As we spoke, I realized that perhaps part of me had avoided actual shopping in stores for gifts this year, as that is something that Anne and I have done together many times over the past few years.
I do not yet know if I am meant to do anything in particular to remember Anne, but I do know that I am to embrace her memory – the gift of friendship that I was given in her – and to be grateful for the example she set in perseverance and faith, and for the assurance that I have, knowing that she fought the good fight and is home, where I will one day see her again.
memories so dear;
treasures of friendship,
hope that is secure.
The faithful fighter,
no more needs to fight;
now in heaven’s hold,
our Savior’s delight.
I will remember,
the blessings I’ve known;
such steadfast faith shown.
Thank You, Lord Jesus,
for Your gifts of grace;
may we be steadfast,
secure in our faith.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the gifts that You give us in friends. Thank You for the blessings that they bring, be it for a season or for a lifetime. Thank You for the lessons that we learn from one another, when we are securely rooted in You. Forgive us for not facing painful or sorrowful things, and help us to embrace each of the experiences that You bring, trusting that You have a purpose and a plan to use each experience for our ultimate good. Teach us to persevere when things are difficult, and to have a faith that is unwavering, even when all seems to be shaking around us. May our confidence and security in You, be a living testimony to all who are around us. May many come to call You King this Christmas. Be our hope and our help, Lord God. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
I simply cannot explain these feelings that have been welling up in my soul lately as we approach Christmas. While Jesus is the reason for the season, like a flower blooming petal after petal, a swarming of love and adoration for Christ has covered me like an abundance of sweet honey reserved just for the best. Jesus Christ is our best. He is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Not just for Christmas, but for all time.
All I need for Christmas is Jesus.
Teaching my children why we celebrate Christmas is very important. While decorating for the holidays, giving and receiving gifts comes with tradition, the main focus is on Christ and His coming to earth in the form of man. (starting off as a baby of course). Lately I have being drawing closer to Him asking that my eyes be opened like never before and that my ears be tentative to my surroundings. Having a little talk with Jesus is like chicken noodle soup for the soul. That’s just my opinion.
I remember some years ago that I would become overwhelmed with the Christmas season approaching. It was more emotional than physical. I would become saddened and somewhat lethargic. I say this because my eyes were set on the wrong things and I was always “thirsty”.
I’m not one to do the Christmas shopping in my house for the most part. Thankfully it has always been my husband because no one would get anything most likely had it been left up to me to go out in the chaos and mass of people rushing, shoving, cursing and just flat-out been mean-spirited. Plus, I don’t have that kind of patience. Having 5 babies back to back kept me busy so it just became easier for my dear husband to do. I digress but for a moment!
My thoughts always went back to my childhood. While I had a pretty decent life growing up, I always felt something missing.
Jesus wasn’t there.
Feeling confused and happy at the same time was just weird. Plain old strange and yet I managed to get through another holiday season. I could not wait for the holidays to pass.
Recently, my heart was on a couple of senior citizens who were in need of some items that they needed. It was an article I caught in the newspaper that came from the aid of the Salvation Army. I told my husband about it and that I wanted to sponsor the people’s needs. While my eyes glazed over the many people young and old with a wish list, I wondered even more about those lost. The lost who needed Jesus; the very One who is our ever-present help, comfort and aid.
I began to cry. Not just because some cannot afford material needs and wants, but that many go lacking without a Savior.How often we walk daily without Him. As Christians and sinners alike ,but first as human beings, we find ourselves at times trying to do things on our own. We try to make things happen within our own power and might. We fix our eyes on higher prizes and treasures beyond our means. Some are just desires to want, want,want. Fleshly things. Things that will pass. Treasures that will not go with us on a U-Haul when we leave this old world.
Getting caught up over-shopping and over-spending will give anyone a headache and then possible regret for debt than may take a while to pay off when we “rob Peter to pay Paul”. That’s a saying I got from my Mom. Maybe you’ve heard of it before.
Nevertheless, we need peace and true joy. It can only be found in Christ Jesus. He will make us whole. He can satisfy our deepest needs. Will you invite Him into your life? Will you allow God to direct your life, your finances, your will, wants and your plans that they will align with His?
While I am not attempting to take away your joy of shopping for your friends and loved ones, I just want to provide you with the opportunity to receive the greatest gift of all this year as we bring 2013 to a close. Health may have fallen, bills may be behind and loved ones may have turned their backs on you but know that there is a risen Savior who is waiting to receive you today.
I want to share with you a song I heard on the radio yesterday. I don’t drive much if I can help it but when I do, I tend to listen to uplifting music to carry me throughout my day. This song about had me in tears. No matter what we are going through, we must know that we cannot do anything in this life without the Lord no matter how hard we try. I know for myself that I cannot walk without Him holding my hand. This song has become one of my favorite and it lingers within me to the point of praise.
All we NEED for Christmas is Jesus Christ. If we trust God, He will provide all that we need and bless us with our wants. By His grace we have what we have. May we be thankful for the little and great. Be blessed one and all. You are loved, cherished and prayed for.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6: 26, 33 NKJV
To God be the glory now and forevermore,
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – (Hebrews 13:16)
Community is critical, and I am so thankful that both my school and church community are heavily invested and committed doing good and sharing with others, as these two arenas are the areas where both my boys and I spend the majority of most of our days. Teaching kids the importance of looking outside of themselves to see that there are needs right here in our own community, and empowering them to rise up and take action, is a common occurrence throughout the year, as my school holds a food drive prior to Thanksgiving, and then sponsors families in need prior to the Christmas break, so that children will have gifts to open and families will have meals to share. Similarly, our church creates Thanksgiving baskets for families in need in the community, and then holds an incredible evening event where many businesses and the police department partner with our church to turn the sanctuary into a space where parents are able to come in and select several gifts for each of their children, and then have them wrapped and tagged, while their kiddos are being cared for in another area, unaware of the surprises that will soon be theirs to open.
The good and sharing that we do with others, goes beyond big events. Our time, our resources, and ourselves – these are what He is asking us to share with others, so that they too, may come to call Him King this Christmas. For the time that you have invested in others, even when it was not convenient, know that He is pleased. As you chose to give, even when it meant you did not get something that you may have wanted, He is pleased. Each time you truly listened and heard the heart of another, He has seen you, and with you, He is well pleased.
Forget not to do good,
and give yourself away;
as we extend our hearts,
that’s the choice to obey.
Giving that which we have,
of our talent and time;
God sees and He honors,
each kindness to mankind.
May we go forth and give,
as we have been given;
may His Name be made known,
on earth as in heaven.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You have done the ultimate good for us, as You shared Your Son so that we might have the hope of eternal life. Thank You that this is a season, more than any other, that people are receptive to receive the good and sharing that others extend. Forgive us for not making the most of the opportunities You provide, and help us to have open hearts, so that we will hear and obey whatever You ask of us. Teach us to trust You completely, knowing that You are good, and that You are pleased each time we choose to do as You ask of us. Just as a parent is proud of their child when they share and are kind to others, help us to remember that You too, see us through the eyes of a loving Father. May we share with others and do good, not only in this sacred season, but throughout the year – as an offering unto You. May many come to know You as their Savior, as we seek to serve You with our lives. Be exalted, O God. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
R.C. Sproul “That He has given us 52 holidays a year does not mean that we cannot rejoice over His grace on Monday, and Tuesday, or any day- even December 25. That others before us celebrated the same day as us, for wicked reasons cannot mean that we cannot do what we will do in eternity for godly reasons- rejoice over the coming of the Messiah. That others tell their children stories about Santa is no reason for us to not tell truth stories to our children about Jesus, and to laugh with joy as we do so.
May Christians celebrate Christmas?
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:5-8).”
Read more at Ligonier Ministries
Christmas Reformation Long Overdue
In these latter years of the twentieth century no other season of the year reveals so much religion and so little godliness as the Christmas season.
Since Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, scarcely anyone dares to come right out and say what he thinks of Christmas. To do so, we fear, would be to identify ourselves with a nasty old grouch who hated everybody; so we go along with the tinseled festivities, doing our best to preserve a misty smile on our faces and a happy, vibrant ring in our voices, no matter how we feel.
Now, Dickens to the contrary notwithstanding, I do not believe that we are compelled to choose between old Scrooge and Tiny Tim. Surely there is a middle ground where mature, love-inspired, Spirit-illuminated adults can locate themselves and make up their own minds about that most beautiful but most abused and abased holiday we call Christmas. I for one want to do just that and love everybody in the process.
I never knew an Ebenezer Scrooge. My own childhood was brightened by the annual return of Christmas. My sweet-faced mother struggled to provide a few extras for her family on Christmas morning and somehow she always succeeded. If there was no more than an orange, a popcorn ball and a cheap toy for each of us, it was yet a memorable time for all. Even the old yellow mongrel that lay on the homemade braided rug was on that happy morning treated to a handful of hard candy which he crunched loudly and solemnly to the squealing of delight of the younger children.
The children that later came to my own home could, and I am sure would, testify to the almost unbearable delight Christmas morning brought to them. Their near delirium as they tumbled out of bed and gathered around the tree to unwrap their gifts amid shouts of surprise and delight will never be forgotten by them or by their parents while life and memory endure. No, whoever else might drop in during the day, Scrooge was never there; he�d have died of apoplexy if he had come near the place.
Yet Christmas as it is celebrated today is badly in need of a radical reformation. What was at first a spontaneous expression of an innocent pleasure has been carried to inordinate excess. In one section of Chicago, for instance, the excited citizenry vie with each other each year for the biggest, gaudiest and most vulgar Christmas tree, on the porch, on the lawn, along the street; and one gigantic, flashily dressed and cold but determinedly smiling Santa Claus drives a fully lighted herd of reindeer across the yard and over the house!
How far have we come in the corruption of our tastes from the reverence of the simple shepherds, the chant of the angels and the beauty of the heavenly host! The Star of Bethlehem could not lead a wise man to Christ today; it could not be distinguished amid the millions of artificial lights hung aloft on Main Street by the Merchants Association. No angels could sing loudly enough to make themselves heard above the raucous, earsplitting rendition of �Silent Night� meant to draw customers to the neighborhood stores.
In our mad materialism we have turned beauty into ashes, prostituted every normal emotion and made merchandise of the holiest gift the world ever knew. Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate His coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year. Not peace but tension, fatigue and irritation rule the Christmas season.
He came to free us of debt and many respond by going deep into debt each year to buy enervating luxuries for people who do not appreciate them. He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them. The simple token given out of love has been displaced by expensive presents given because we have been caught in a squeeze and don�t know how to back out of it. Not the beauty of the Lord our God is found in such a situation, but the ugliness and deformity of human sin.
Among the harmful abuses of the Christmas season in America is the substitution of Santa Claus for Christ as the chief object of popular interest, especially among the children.
The morality of Mother Goose stories and fairy tales has been questioned by serious-minded Christian parents, but my opinion is that these are relatively harmless because they are told as fiction and the child is fully aware that they are imaginary. With Santa Claus it is not so. The child is taught falsehood as sober truth and is thus grossly deceived during the most sensitive and formative period of his life.
What shall we do? Cultivate humility and frugality. Put the emphasis where the Bible puts it, on the Christ at the right hand of God, not on the babe in the manger. Return to the simplicity that is in Christ. Cleanse our churches of the unscriptural pageantry borrowed from Rome. Take the Scriptures as our guide and refuse to be pressured into conformity to paganism practiced in the name of Christ.
EVERYWHERE, EVERYWHERE, CHRISTMAS TONIGHT!�
That there were in the world multiplied millions who had never heard of Christmas did not matter to our poet for the purpose of his poem. He was expressing an emotional fact, not a statistical one.
Throughout the Western world we tend to follow the poet and approach Christmas emotionally instead of factually. It is the romance of Christmas that gives it its extraordinary appeal to that relatively small number of persons of the earth�s population who regularly celebrate it.
So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all. A half dozen doctrinally sound carols serve to keep alive the great deep truth of the Incarnation, but aside from these, popular Christmas music is void of any real lasting truth. The English mouse that was not even stirring, the German Tannenbaum so fair and lovely and the American red-nosed reindeer that has nothing to recommend it have pretty well taken over in Christmas poetry and song. These along with merry old St. Nicholas have about displaced Christian theology.
We must not forget that the Church is the custodian of a truth so grave and urgent that its importance can not be overemphasized, and so vast and incomprehensible that even an apostle did not try to explain it; rather it burst forth from him as an astonished exclamation:
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations;
was believed on in the world,
(1 Timothy 3:16)
This is what the Church is trying to say to mankind but her voice these days is thin and weak and scarcely heard amid the commercialized clangor of �Silent Night.�
It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning; but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import. The same man who will check his tires and consult his road map with utmost care before starting on a journey may travel for a lifetime on the way that knows no return and never once pause to ask whether or not he is headed in the right direction.
The Christmas message, when stripped of its pagan overtones, is relatively simple: God is come to earth in the form of man. Around this one dogma the whole question of meaning revolves. God did come or He did not; He is come or He is not, and the vast accumulation of sentimental notions and romantic practices that go to make up our modern Christmas cannot give evidence on one side or the other.
Certain religious teachers in apostolic times refused to believe that Jesus was actually God come in the flesh. They were willing to exhaust the language of unctuous flattery to describe His glorious manhood, but they would have none of His deity. Their basic philosophy forbade them to believe that there could ever be a union of God and human flesh.Matter, they said, is essentially evil. God who is impeccably holy could never allow Himself contact with evil. Human flesh is matter, therefore God is not come in the flesh.
Certainly it would not be difficult to refute this negative teaching. One would only need to demonstrate the error of the major premise, the essential sinfulness of matter, and the whole thing would collapse. But that would be to match reason against reason and take the mystery of godliness out of the realm of faith and make of it merely another religious philosophy. Then we would have rationalism with a thin Christian veneer. How long before the veneer wore off and we had only rationalism?
While faith contains an element of reason, it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were no more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct and personal.
Christ�s coming to Bethlehem�s manger was in harmony with the primary fact of His secret presence in the world in preincarnate times as the Light that lighteth every man. The sum of the New Testament teaching about this is that Christ�s claims are self-validating and will be rejected only by those who love evil. Whenever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, a judgment seat is erected and each hearer stands to be judged by his response to the message. His moral responsibility is not to a lesson in religious history but to the divine Person who now confronts him.
�Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.� But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing.
We had better decide.