By Pastor David Chancey
This time last year, COVID-19 threatened our Christmas. Many lost loved ones to the virus and had to say goodbye via Facetime or Zoom. Many senior adults were isolated and could not spend time with family. Hospital beds were full and newscasts announced the daily death tally.
One year later, we’re trying to get back to our new normal, but the Delta variant and now the Omicron variant assault our safety again. We’re living in a divided nation with rising crime, inflation, the border crisis and increasing spiritual apathy; thus, we need Christmas more than ever. Christmas reminds us God never forgets us, but instead, came to us in the person of Jesus. Especially in difficult times God is with us.
The first Christmas
We think about our troubles and forget the first Christmas came amid hardship. James Denison wrote, “In the first century Roman Empire, up to half of all children died before the age of 10 … A tiny fraction of the population was made up of the “elites” — the emperor, local rulers and religious authorities. The vast majority were laborers, often working for wealthy landowners.”
Most lived in poverty, Denison said, “constantly in danger of hunger or starvation if their crops failed.” Tax burdens were ridiculous, and consequences of debt were extreme.
Sexual immorality often involving women, slaves and children was rampant.
“Spiritual confusion reigned: some worshipped the emperor, others the gods of Mount Olympus, while others engaged in mystery cults” (denisonforum.org, 11/29/21).
Fast forward to the 20th century. We’re not too far removed from Christmases in which our grandparents faced uncertainty.
Their lives were filled with the fear of catching smallpox, polio and tuberculous. My mom remembers when the good news broke that a polio vaccine had been developed. Her parents’ generation celebrated Christmas despite turbulent conditions.
Will we? How can we get the most from our Christmas celebration?
First, center your celebration around Jesus. Make Jesus the focus, not the to-do list, the baking, the decorating or shopping. Those are enjoyable features, but not the main event. Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything else is tradition, marketing madness or seasonal expectations.
Will we truly celebrate Christmas, or just treat it as another holiday? Will we dash through the Christmas season and fail to worship Jesus? That’s like planning a major birthday bash, going to great lengths to have everything ready and then, when the big day arrives, forgetting to invite the guest of honor.
Don’t forget Jesus this Christmas.
Second, place more emphasis on giving than receiving. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. I gave Santa a wish list so long it would ground a sleigh.
Often, we put the emphasis on getting when God puts the emphasis on giving. As we mature, we should get excited about what we’re giving for Christmas and realize we are never more like Jesus than when we’re giving. Jesus gave sacrificially as He gave Himself.
Third, fill your life with joy, not fear. There’s plenty to be afraid of but note the “fear nots” as you read through the Christmas Scriptures. Imagine the moment Jesus made His earthly entrance in the stable that night. Don’t you know that was a great moment?
Reflect on the moment Mary and Joseph first looked into the baby’s face. Think of the instant the shepherds hurriedly came and saw the infant Jesus. What occasions of joy those must have been! Choose joy over fear and anxiety this Christmas. And remember Whom Christmas is really about.
By Karen Moore
I love this message from Romans 12:11: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
These two sentences are chock-full of things we can do that might just change the way we view life on any given day.
You may remember when you had spiritual fervor that made you smile when you first became a believer.
Then you learned chaos didn’t disappear and conflict and affliction still knew how to find you. It was different now though, you drew on the one new tool that came with your fervent belief, and it was called hope. Hope made sense. Hope was something God gave you. Hope is what comes with all your reasons for decorating your house and putting up a tree at this season of the year.
J.I. Packer said the Christmas message is that hope is for a ruined humanity — hope for pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory — because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable.
Hope brings us back to Christmas once again, and along with it comes those amazing moments of spiritual fervor and joy. This is the season to remember God Himself stepped up and made a plan for humans to celebrate from here to eternity. God didn’t wrap His hope in shiny paper or fill it with gift cards with bows. He simply placed His gift in a feeding trough, filled with the light of a shining star and adoring parents. He made it possible for all of us to tiptoe to the manger and peek in at the One who is the absolute hope of the world.
Be joyful in hope because you have every reason to have a hope-filled heart.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given … Wonderful Counselor, mighty god, everlasting father, prince of peace.”
“There is nothing that our God can’t do! He has sent a revival to our school,” said Kaylor Jones, a junior at Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens, Georgia.
“The Lord gave me the talent, so I just thought I would give it back to Him,” said Irma Freeman, who gave the proceeds from selling artwork at her 90th birthday to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
We want to help train the American church to become missionaries to the unchurched, unsaved Vietnamese in their community.
Pastor Quang Nguyen
FBC Jacksonville, Florida
“If God calls you to something, even when everyone in your life says it’s crazy, maybe the great lesson is just to never ever quit — remembering that success is long obedience in the same direction,” said Jon Erwin, director of “American Underdog,” a film about NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner. (See story here)
Christ’s saving death, victorious resurrection and outpoured Spirit are essential ingredients for peace on earth. When we examine our hearts this Christmas season, do we find God’s peace residing within?
Retired Baptist pastor and former associate dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama
Lives depend on us understanding that we must destroy our idol of self and steward everything of God’s well.
Pastor Michael Daugherty
FBC Sheridan, Arkansas
Neither God’s presence, His activity nor His deliverance insulates a person from temptations to sin. Personally witnessing a sin can deposit an inescapable temptation inside a person’s mind. One can retain vivid memories of things from which God has delivered him or her. His deliverance neither erases one’s memory nor removes future temptations arising from those previous exposures.
The Baptist New Mexican
Christmas is a season of peace, joy and goodwill toward others. May you experience this and share this, with others.
Blackaby International Ministries
If we’re going to be true worshippers, we’ve got to take this love and this adoration to people outside of the four walls.
Pastor Dewayne Rembert
Flatline Church at Chisholm
LIFT worship conference
From the Twitterverse
“We often seek to please ourselves first, instead of God. What is interesting is that when we seek to please God first, very often we discover that we end up far more pleased than we did when we put ourselves first.”
Before engaging in online disagreement: 1) would this person’s brand be damaged if things actually improved? 2) do his/her sales or career depend primarily upon churning up grievances on social media?
If yes, you’re likely making things worse by engaging.
A broken person is a much more attractive leader to God, than one who doesn’t know they are broken.
Look in most every SBC church building and you will find the pulpit in the center of the platform … Why? … The Proclamation of the Word, Preaching, is the central element in Christian worship … “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believed” (1 Cor. 1:21).
When a mirror shows you where the smudges are, you can attack the mirror for making you look bad, or you can get clean.
Organizations drift toward complexity and over-programming. … fight for simplicity and focus.
Cynicism is easy. Hope takes courage.
There is a way to talk about issues that state the uncomfortable truth & yet compel people to change & there is another way to talk about issues that harden people & keep them embedded in their brokenness — how you address the issue says more about you …
Man is nothing but a subject full of natural error that cannot be eradicated except through grace. —Blaise Pascal