The traditional Deck the Halls Christmas carol of possible Welsh origin is heard on radio, in department stores, certain old movies (if you’re into watching them) and Christmas Morning Melodies theatre shows (such as the one we attended last week).
Overall this popular carol encourages us to be happy at this season of expressing joy with lines such as Follow me in merry measure, Fa la la la la, la la la la. While I tell of Yule tide treasure, Fa la la la la, la la la la… Sing we joyous, all together…
Yes, Christmas is indeed meant to a joyous time, especially for Christians and the church of Jesus Christ. Carol singing services began at the weekend and are generally well attended whether in local parks, churches or their grounds. The Christmas spirit is indeed evident in several other ways too…
- Many emails and businesses letters contain a seasonal greeting
- People are wishing Christmas good wishes as they farewell
- Postal organisations have been delivering Christmas cards and gifts
- Christmas parties have been organised – several have already happened
- Restaurants have been long geared up for Christmas Day lunches
- The seasonal holidays break is happily anticipated. And so on…
Christmas is indeed a time to be jolly! A time of good food, friendship and fun!
The real Christian Christmas celebration
Christians especially have historical grounds for celebrating Christmas and being joyous … we know the real reason for the season!
It’s not about Santa Claus coming to town or those secular Christmas gifts (although they are a wonderful, special generosity demonstration of showing care, thought and love). The real Christmas is celebrating the fact that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, Jesus to save us from our sins (John 3:16)! We call it the Incarnation – Jesus, the pre-existent divine one taking on a human body and human nature and being born of the Virgin Mary. Amazing really!
This morning we read again the Luke 2:10-14 (Mge) scriptures declaring the angelic good news declaration to the shepherds that would resound around the world: ‘The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide:
A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master.This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.’
The joy that would bless the world is ‘great joy’ in the original language – megas chara – exceedingly big cheerfulness, calm delight and gladness! Forget those side-tracking, time-wasting, wearing arguments about when Jesus was actually born – Christmas for Christians is especially meant to be a time of rejoicing that we have a Saviour who has redeemed humankind! We have so much to celebrate even beyond Christmas Day! Let’s be happy and rejoice this Christmas!
Or can we?
But … can everybody be happy this Christmas? In truth not everyone can!
Oh, we’re not being negative but realistic! The truth is not everyone can be or will be really happy this Christmas especially non-Christians. Sadly this includes some Christians and even some full gospel, Bible-strong church leaders.
Why? Simple – life is life and things go wrong, peace destroying things pop up out of the blue and even very strong believing followers of Jesus can suddenly be thrown!
Take for example, the lady in a local store we happened to call into yesterday. We instantly sensed something was wrong and felt to ask if the store was closing down. The non-churchgoing lady in charge, usually so bright, sadly acknowledged it was and when we sincerely enquired if she had another job to move to or good prospects, said, ‘No.’ Christmastime for her was not a joyous occasion.
Although she doesn’t know we’re ministers, we instantly took her hands and quietly said, ‘So sorry to learn this but we appreciate you and want to bless you by praying for a good Christmas and a great future.’ She did not object but held our hands tightly as we prayed gently and sincerely. With our concluding ‘In Jesus’ name, Amen’, she smiled warmly and thanked us for our thoughtfulness and kindness. Her young assistant beamed too.
Yes… shades of Mahalia Jackson’s ‘If I Can Help Somebody as I Pass Along, if I Can Cheer Somebody…’ but really expressing a little kindness from the heart in the Jesus tradition to encourage a troubled soul at this time of goodwill.
We think of others who need cheering this Christmas season…
- Lately sickness has invaded even churches that strongly believe in divine healing and miracles. Even some ministers have been struck seriously ill recently and need to be left alone for months, completely free from church responsibilities.
- Some normally bright young, and some not-so-young businesspeople appear to be succumbing to external pressures and self-doubt.
- We hear from those troubled by lost contracts and are uneasy because other staff are gossiping and criticising or accusing at this Christmas season.
- Then there those uncertain about their future, not just because of financial pressures, the danger of terrorism in our crazy world or the straining that certain unforeseen events brings, but due to feeling inadequate about themselves and their abilities to cope, to go on into 2017.
- Christians who have been reveling in ‘positive’ (but not fully biblically substantiated) church declarations about being so overwhelmed by God’s grace and goodness that they will lack nothing, that nothing will throw them because they’re overcomers. Suddenly out of left field something bad has happened and they are thrown and feeling down, or they’ve been struck by some serious calamity!
- Or that friend, a faithful believer and prayer warrior, who was coming off a busy freeway recently in her little car when she realised a SUV had wrongly entered the road and was hurtling toward her! Smashed into, her vehicle was sent flying, turning over and over! Shocked, she not only had a wrecked irreparable car but is still suffering from a severely sore arm and shoulder.
- We can relate to this one ourselves! We had our own pre-Christmas car troubles – on a narrow bridge a new front tyre blew and the bridge stanchions damaged the side of the car. That incident certainly threw me (Robert) – particularly as I’m still recuperating from that heart operation last year! It could have totally wrecked expectant Christmas joy! Praise God for caring, praying, encouraging friends who brought good cheer.
The reality is that we all need caring friends!
Paul exhorts us to care for each other as the body of Christ!
In 1 Corinthians 12:25 (NLT) he writes about ‘… harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.’ Actually five Greek words are behind the phrase ‘care for each other.’ They emphasise ‘on behalf of one another!’ The WEBBE translation puts it this way: ‘… members should have the same care for one another.’
In Galatians 6:2, Paul exhorts us to ‘Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.’ ‘Carry’ is bastazo – to bear, lift with the intent of removing. The Message says, ‘Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.’
What was the law of Christ? Recall John 13:34-35: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
Actually, in his love and through his grace, God, the great heavenly Father stooped down from the glories of heaven to reach us, undeserving sinners that we are!
Redeemed through the shed blood of the Son of God, we must reach out to our God-family brethren who need prayer, love, and encouragement this Christmas. And to those outside the church family!
Whatever is robbing our God-family of joy at this time, let’s take every opportunity God gives us to act and encourage them!
Limitation of space hinders further wordage and scriptures to broaden this sharing – but this is where we can allow the creative blessed Holy Spirit to guide us. Friends, even strangers, will be so encouraged as we bless them.
Good news incident
Luke 2: 10 above speaks of not being afraid – verse 9 indicates, as the NET version puts it, the startled, troubled shepherds ‘were absolutely terrified.’
If you’re going through some setback that causing worry, fear, perhaps terror, here’s a Christmas story that’ll remind you that nothing catches God unawares, that he hasn’t forgotten you. There’s no need to remain fearful! Go on exercising faith in Jesus by ‘letting go and letting God.’ Show your trust in the invisible God!
Traditionally Christmas services often remind us that a troubled Joseph had an angelic visitation that encouraged him. Sometimes – note: only sometimes! – God still organises such events. A great friend phoned this week to share that unexpectedly his wife needs healing and requested our prayers. In past times of our own need of a friend’s encouragement, he has been there for us. We have always cared for them both and immediately prayed over the phone.
Then he added this: A few nights ago having prayed themselves, suddenly he was aware that someone was in their kitchen. On quietly slipping in there – the lights weren’t on – he saw the outline of two strangers! Unafraid he bade them to come into the lounge but they didn’t. Instead they said very quietly and clearly, ‘Everything you have need of is going to work out all right. It’ll be all right.’ Then they vanished! An angelic visitation? he thought.
Having had similar experiences, we immediately commented, ‘We too believe in angels. They’re not ten feet tall with wings on those rare occasions when they mysteriously show up in their assigned role as God’s messengers!’
Our friend and his wife had been encouraged, comforted and reassured, not only by that experience but now through our caring and prayers!
Now we’re not angels – but we are God’s messengers of good news! We too can bless and encourage and help remove burdens! May we not miss such opportunities this Christmas season, any season. Let’s help troubled people experience joy – and keep it!
Reminder: Maureen’s favourite scripture is Romans 15:13, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Overflow’ is perissueo – to superabound, be in excess.
In other words, when we allow God to cheer us, we’ll have enough to share this Christmas!
(Scripture emphases ours) Links: Jim McClure’s https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/12/12/seeing-the-invisible-god/, Stuart Reynold’s – https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/12/12/who-wants-to-be-joseph/, Carol Round’s https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/12/12/lets-change-the-face-of-christmas-commercialism/, TheBuzz What a Rabbi Taught Me About Keeping Christ in Christmas – https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/12/12/thebuzz-20/, Our October’s https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/10/28/everyday-faith-its-everyday-trust/