Source: When Fear Intersects Faith
with my eye on you, I will give counsel.
Exactly what is Christmas all about? Is it just the trees, shopping, gifts, cards and eating or it is something more? This year as in several before there has been a lot of discussion over whether we should just say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Luke 2:1-7, tells the story of Mary & Joseph on their way to Bethlehem. Mary, though a virgin, is expecting a child, and upon their arrival at the local Inn, they were told there was no room. Maybe this is typical of some of the Christmas celebrations today. There is a lot of activity, but little room for Jesus.
The Celebration of Christmas is ALL about Jesus. The first recorded celebration the birthday of Jesus was about AD98. In AD274 an emperor of the old Roman world chose December 25th as the birthday of the unconquered sun (S-U-N). He recognized that at this mid-winter date the sun reaches its lowest point in the Southern sky and gradually begins to move North again. (Today we call this the winter-solstice. It actually happens about December 22.) To celebrate this annual rebirth of nature, houses were decorated with greenery and candles; and presents were given to children and the poor.
By AD 336, the church had decided that all believers should celebrate the birthday of the Lord Jesus, the unconquered Son (S-O-N), the Son of righteousness, on December 25th, since the actual date was unknown, and the church adopted many of the decorating traditions of that day. To this the Germans added Christmas trees; the Italians added Nativity scenes; the Dutch added Santa Claus or “Saint” Claus (who was bishop of Asia minor in the 4th century). Colonial Americans added chimney stockings; current day Americans added Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday and the ACLU adds confusion. Are you surprised to know that Santa Claus was/is a Christian!
Here’s the question: Is there any room in your celebration for Jesus or has he been crowded out by: Parties, parades, pictures, poinsettias, and presents?
Over forty percent of annual retail receipts are made up from Christmas shopping. Americans send 4 billion greeting cards by U.S. mail and an untold number by email.
In 1644 the English Parliament passed strict laws making it illegal to commemorate the Christmas season in any way. Christmas celebrations had become so depraved and rowdy that the meaning of Christmas had been completely lost in an abundance of partying, drunkenness and rioting. Decent people found it necessary to stay indoors for safety.
No matter how hard you try you can never crowd Jesus out of Christmas. Call it a holiday… but holiday is just the compound contraction that means Holy Day. Call it Christmas…. and know the “Christ” is Jesus and “mas” means worship. So every time we say Christmas we are saying “worship Christ!” Call it Xmas…. X is the Greek letter chi, a frequent abbreviation for Christ. So every time we call it Xmas we are still crying out CHRIST-MAS.
Focus on Giving… see the Wisemen; Focus on singing… hear the angels; In the Candy Cane’s shape of the we see the shepherd’s staff; In its color… salvation; In the three strips…the Holy Trinity; In the taste we remember…that the Lord is good.
In the lights…see His star; In the color green…see that he offers eternal life; In the white see His purity; In the purple see His royalty; In the gold… see His riches; In the red..see His blood; In the gifts… His generosity; In the Christmas tree… we see Him on Calvary’s tree. Christmas is ALL about celebrating Jesus and God’s love for us.
A church member’s parting words to his pastor were penetrating and pertinent. He simply said, “Whatever you do, don’t miss the joy!” These were the words of Robert Louis Stevenson. At life’s end he continued, “To miss the joy is to miss everything!”
Whenever I talk to young men and women who are asking about their potential careers I say, “Find something you love to do and find someone who will pay you to do it and you will live a happy live.” As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “To miss the joy is to miss everything!”
Work is as fundamental to life as anything can be. In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve the assignment to work (Gen 2:15) and in the New Testament Paul says that if a man will not work he should not eat (2 Thes. 3:10). Whether it is on the job, in the community or in the home, work is fundamental to life.
So why not have joy in the thing you have to do everyday? Unfortunately some people force themselves out of bed every day, dreading the work that is before them, with no joy.
Isn’t joy on the job something that everyone really wants? Even the Dwarfs in Disney’s Snow White encouraged one another to “Whistle while you work… When hearts are high the time will fly, so whistle while you work!”
If we spend 8 hours a day working; 5 days a week; 50 weeks a year; for the average work life of 40 years; that’s 80,000 hours of work in a lifetime! It’s 3,333 days or about 10 full years of work on the job and that does not include work around the house, in church, in the community, on mission, the list goes on. That’s just way too much time to be mad, sad, miserable, grumbling or angry. We need joy!
Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 8:15 (HCSB) “So I commended enjoyment because there is nothing better for man under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.”
Joy is a hallmark of the Christian experience. It is evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives. It takes the right circumstances to keep us happy, but it only takes Christ’s presence to give us Joy. Psalm 16:11 (HCSB) says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.”
Happiness depends upon what’s happening all around us. Joy depends upon what’s happening inside us. Troubling times have a way of robbing us of our happiness. Only taking our eyes off Jesus robs us of our Joy.
I remember growing up in Sunday School singing a song that still being joy to my heart: “If you want Joy, real Joy, wonderful Joy, Let Jesus come into your heart. Your sins he’ll wash away, Your night he’ll turn to day. Your life he’ll make it over anew. If you want Joy, real Joy, wonderful Joy, Let Jesus come into your heart.”
I allowed my husband, Mark, to talk me into climbing a water fall as a part of our vacation “fun”. You have to know me to understand why fun is in quotation marks. It will take too long to explain, so, just use your imagination. Mark and I along with some other friendly, but unknown faces, filed onto a bus and headed off to our adventure. Once we arrived, we were divided into groups of 10-12 people and instructed that successful climbing of the Falls required our holding the hands of the strangers around us and not letting go unless told to do so. “Uh, oh!” Our guide, Donald, promised that we would be safe if all instructions were followed. “Don’t let go of your neighbors’ hands unless I ask you to,” was his final directive.
After stepping into and adjusting to the chilly water of Dunn’s River Falls, we…
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We love to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...” , but are there areas we are missing?
While I was serving as a Pastor in a small city in Virginia, I attended a meeting in Atlanta. At the meeting were leaders of the 27- ethnic fellowships in the SBC. Next to me was the president of the Vietnamese Fellowship. During one of the sessions he quietly slid a Gospel Tract toward me. I took one look at it and saw it was written in something I couldn’t read that I assumed was Vietnamese. So I quietly slid it back and said, “We don’t have any Vietnamese in my area.” He pushed it back to me again and said, “Go to your local nail salon.” So, at a meeting in Georgia, a guy from Arizona, who has never been in Virginia, told me where to find Vietnamese people in my neighborhood.
I started taking a look around. I noticed more distinctly that there were more than just black people and white people in my city. The owner of the nail salon was Vietnamese. The owner of the beauty supply was Korean. The owner of the motel was from India. My doctor was from Kenya and my wife’s doctor was from the Philippines.
I looked inside my predominately African American congregation and there were people from Uganda, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad, Panama and St. Croix. There were Caucasians of Irish and other European ethnicities. What I came to realize was that our church, in a little southern town, was looking more and more like the Kingdom of God. While the numbers of the various ethnicities were not great because of the demographic of our community, the openness of our church was great.
How did it happen?
1. We had a Pastor led commitment to missions. Since the end of my college days, I have traveled for vocation and vacation in 32 countries on 5 continents. Every year for 19 years while I was at that church I, the pastor, led one of our international mission trips. This helped me and the members of the congregation to develop and maintain a true Biblical WORLD View. Sometimes we have a Biblical view, but it’s really a Biblical COMMUNITY view.
2. We led the church as a Church that was Black, rather than as a Black Church. We were a church that was Black because we were in a community that was demographically black. That meant we could embrace and celebrate our heritage and black Americans, while at the same time being open to accept and embrace people that were not black Americans. I believe that if you hold up your ethnicity over your Christianity you may consciously or unconsciously be closed to God’s greater Kingdom work. If we see ourselves as a Black Church, White Church, Korean Church or whatever, it means that all who come to us must conform and become what we have declared we are. However, if we see our Christianity first and our ethnicity only as representing the people we currently serve, we remain open to God leading others our way who may not be what we have been, but are a part of God’s greater Kingdom agenda.
3. We celebrated every member of the congregation. We had flags that hung in the Sanctuary, but the only flags we hung were those that represented countries we as a church had travelled to on Mission, or countries in which our members were born. We did international potlucks, dress in the attire of your native country Sundays and we were open to new songs members brought from their homeland or from a mission trip.
Multi-cultural experiences can grow when we are authentically Kingdom-minded believers. We love to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….”
 Matthew 6:10 (HCSB)
 Matthew 6:10 (HCSB)
Read Psalm 127 and reflect with me on what it takes to make our families successful.
1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eatB for he grants sleep to those he loves. 3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. 4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. 5Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
- Work in Partnership with God. (127:1) There are some things we cannot do on our own. God must be a participant in the family building process, but we must work at it also. For us to work at it without the Lord is like beating our heads against a brick wall. For us to believe that the Lord will build our family without our efforts is folly. We are laborers together with God. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
Watching out for our family members is part of the process, but there is a limit to what we can see and the places we can go. We need to know that when our family goes its several ways each day, and when we sleep each night — There is a God who is watching. He is the Lord. Sometimes called Jehovah-roi, The God who sees me.
- Pattern Your Life to Love God (127:2). The Bible is not merely a book of good suggestions, wise sayings or a suggested way of life. The Bible is the Word of God. We cannot just follow the trends of the day, or do our own thing and expect God’s blessings. How long have you been struggling trying to find satisfaction, peace or success in your life, only to have them continually elude you?
My friend, you can rise up early and stay up late, but you will not find what you’re looking for until you seek to live a life that pleases God. — He gives rest to those who are in a love relationship with him!
Why do you expect God will bless your life if you’re living like you don’t love him? All of our troubles are not the result of our disobedience, but some of them sure are! How many of us, right now, have our whole family in jeopardy because of our unwillingness to live according to God Holy Word?
- Pour Yourself into the next Generation. (127:3-4) Too often people see children as a nuisance, an interruption in my goals and objectives, a burden or as someone else’s concern.
We are all part of an eternal continuum. We are born as part of a heritage and we are responsible to leave a heritage. Each of us has the responsibility to try to leave the world a better place than it was when we entered it. Each of us has something unique to offer. There is no waiting for such a task and there is no retirement from such a task.
I have heard people talk of this text likening children to arrows and quivers, and remark, “That was OK for then, but we don’t use arrows any more.” Look beyond the time oriented surface to glimpse the eternal truth. What can we learn about Arrows & Warriors that we can use them. The warrior cares for the arrows. He keeps them sharp, clean, ready and available. The warrior sends the arrows at an appointed time, in a definite direction and toward a definite goal. Isn’t this the task we have — to pour our lives into children, to care for them, keep them sharp, send them off toward their goal.
- Work to Develop Every Member’s Potential. (127:5) Every member of the family must be encouraged to Define their dreams, Determine their destiny, Herald their hopes and Grasp their goals. You may say, “Oh you don’t know my family…” and you are right. But I do know there is a Family where you can find faithful brothers by the thousands and encouraging sisters everywhere you go. There is a Father who is patient and loving, who will always work to get the best out of you, who will never let you struggle alone and Who Knows How Much You Can Bear!!! I’m talking about the Family of God. Why not go to Church this Sunday?
God bless our families. AMEN.