2008’s Christmas Motto

Christmas is meant to be a wonderful end-of-year time. There’s a great Chrissie spirit in the big shopping centres and local radio stations are playing cherry old-style Christmas carols mingled with modern hits. It’s mid-December and the usual end-of-year hectic rush to complete getting pressies and cards is in full swing.

Next the really good Chrissie stuff will start… parties, family get-togethers, exchanging gifts, those Christmas-focused movie reruns, carol services, the ever popular annual Melbourne Sidney Myer Bowl Carols by Candlelight, traditional baking of Christmas cakes and puddings and holidays.

But for those without personal faith or a solid Christian upbringing or background, December can be a meaningless time – apart from a brief holiday and perhaps some parties and gift giving. To many, Christmas church activities and Christian beliefs about Christmas are a lot of ‘rah, rah, rah’ and ‘So what, who cares?’

There’s even been a move to eliminate Christmas from some schools, to rob children of the joy of performing in annual school Christmas plays…how sad. The truth is that today the original meaning of the season is usually neither understood nor appreciated. Santa Claus or Harry Potter or something else has replaced the true centrepiece, Jesus Christ!

Buy Now, Pay Later
For now, we’re being strongly urged to ‘Buy Now to Your Advantage!’ and with the current world financial crisis, many retail outlets have dropped their prices in order to attract us to do just that. Some stores are offering ‘No payment required until 2010!’ Even the government is giving special bonuses to pensioners and parents.

True …the bargains are there to be had. But people need to be wise and cautious as they spend that bonus and use their credit cards. Ignoring the reality that bills will inevitably come in a month after the Christmas cheer ends, means that unless they’ve planned their finances they will be hit hard! Yet some TV news interviews and reports already indicate that many, especially young people, intend ‘spending up big’ with government incentives.

Christmas ‘spend now, pay later’ debt has relaced God’s free gift of a Saviour and trusting a generous, loving God. The unique manger scene comes across as cute but is not fully understood. Commercialism has replaced the spirit of Christmas generosity. Today’s thinking that we can save ourselves by looking out for number one has replaced the need of a Saviour due to universal sin.

Why Christmas?
Even some Christians don’t bother celebrating the true meaning of Christmas any more, yet it’s the second most important Christian event on the church calendar (Easter must always be number one!)

The Bible (God’s directions) states that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Saviour so that we could find forgiveness of sins (our wrongdoing, faults and breaking of his laws) and discover a satisfying and meaningful life by accepting him.’ God sent Jesus some 2000 years ago…the first Christmas gift as it were…free and willingly because he cares for us and loves us.

God is good! He is love itself! It’s a God thing! God doesn’t want people being robbed of a good life and without hope for eternity or living miserably today. He wants to bless us, give us support, and all kinds of security and help.

Now most Christians realise that no one knows exactly when Jesus was born but that long ago it became traditional at this time of year for the church to celebrate his birth with carols, cheery songs and thanksgiving to God.

Our giving of presents is symbolic of God giving his present – the greatest present possible – his own Son, Jesus, to become our Saviour by dying in our place, taking on for the punishment for our sins, waywardness, and wrongdoings, even evil deeds.

What a gift! And what a right thing for us to do at this time… celebrate God’s goodness through worship and gift giving! And what a hope for 2009 and the future! – if we will fully trust in a good and generous God!

The Other Side of Christmas
Christmas is indeed meant to be a wonderful time of family, friends and fun. But it can also be a time of sadness for many.

Foolish binge drinking, deaths, marriage break-ups, sicknesses, ongoing wars, road or home accidents, unexpected incidents such as the terrible tsunami of a few years ago, funerals, evictions, job loses, further financial worries as the worldwide financial tragedy worsens for many, people on their own feeling so lonely, lost and unwanted…these tragedies don’t stop just because it’s the festive season.

We live in uncertain, dangerous times, even in our own great and blessed nation. Times of new illnesses, uncertain financial investments, terrible criminal acts, rampant pornography even against children, divorces where couples aren’t prepared to work on their problems, desertions, job insecurity and increasing subtle witchcraft. Sadly a lot of people have no real assurance of a good life at this festive season. If ever we needed the real Christmas it’s this year!

Hope and Trust
Many emails and online articles that I read indicate an absence of trust in a good, generous and loving God – even though most comes from Christian sources! For example, reports continue to remind us of the monetary downturn and the insecurities around us, but few offer real or much hope in Jesus.

Yes, no doubt God is speaking to his people but we must put our trust in him and believe that he will act on our behalf. He delights when we rely on him, as did Daniel, Moses, Gideon and other Bible heroes in their own dangerous times.

Faith is always the key! The great ‘Apostle of Faith’, Smith Wigglesworth, once said: ‘Inactivity of faith is a robber, which steals the blessing. Increase comes by action.’

We live in days when we too must exercise faith. By so doing we will gain increase of blessings, unusual provision and protection, not the reverse. Don’t be despondent, dismal or undecided no matter what the perpetual bad news reports say or if you’ve lost out with investments and have other financial worries. Don’t yield to fear and negativity – trust in God and his word and his promises will bring you through!

Your Real Christmas Motto
The great truth is that the real Christmas story eternally remains a positive one, for the Bible gives a Christmas promise of good news and positive hope…’Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Saviour – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem…Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all whom God favours’ (Luke 2:10, 11, 14).

That was the great and welcomed message God’s angels brought to troubled hearts all those years ago. And it can do so afresh today if we reach out in faith and accept it. For today the message of hope is still real. No matter what troubles us this Christmas, we can receive awesome comfort, not just from an angel but direct from the Lord himself.

Unfortunately some people begrudge Christmas. They don’t understand its real meaning or why it’s so important to Christians – and to a shaky world. It’s good to learn that some state premiers have encouraged schools to celebrate Christmas and not be influenced or pressured by those who would stop great traditional school celebrations. That’s good advice to everyone!

As we celebrate Christmas this year, remind God that you’re trusting him and relying on him and his love and generous heart.

But think about yourself and your difficulties! Think of others. Take opportunities to share the real meaning of Christmas with others. Perhaps there’s some lonely person you can invite home or give a simple gift to. Remember when you’re saying grace for the Christmas lunch and your own presents, to joyfully give thanks for your own and your family’s salvation through the greatest of all gifts – the Lord Jesus Christ. And spare a prayer for those who do not know him or the real reason for the season.

May your own Christmas motto this year not be ‘Buy Now’ but ‘Rely Now’ indicating that you know the one you’re relying on to bring the true Christmas cheer no matter what uncertainties you or the world may be facing!

Hope for Today!
My wife, Maureen, has a favourite scripture that she repeatedly offers to people with heavy hearts…Romans 15:13: ‘May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Hey…that’s not just a great all-year-round scripture, it’s especially good to take onboard this Christmas!

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