Category Archives: Advent/Christmas

Living Life on the Dash

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

I’d like to share a few thoughts to consider as we prepare for 2020.  New Year’s gives us the opportunity to both reflect on the past year while considering how we want to spend the upcoming year.  To help us with this insightful exercise, I’d like to pose this question, “how do you want to live the rest of my life?”  I refer to this as “the dash”, the timeframe between birth and death.  We see it on cemetery tombstones to frame one’s lifetime but do we seriously consider the possibilities that lay “on the dash”?

The subscript for Psalm 90 is “A Prayer of Moses the man of God” and deals specifically with the eternality of God contrasted with the mortality of man.  The thrust of this magnificent prayer is to ask God to have mercy on frail human beings in a sin-cursed universe.

Moses remembered God’s protection, sustenance, and stability as He guided over 4 million people across the desert to God’s Promised Land. He was their dwelling place—their sanctuary in the desert (Ps. 90:1-2).  Verse 2 says, “Before the mountains were brought forth or the earth and world was formed,

God was.  Almighty God is dependent on nothing or anyone for sustenance or favor.  He will forever be Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Man, in contrast, was formed from the dust of the ground and came into existence after God breathed the breathe of life into his nostrils (Gen, 2:7). This life was spirit—it was that part of man that would never age and would, like its Creator, live forever. Then man became a living soul—with a mind, a will, and emotions.  Man was dependent upon God for all things.  God could be trusted to guard man’s life.

God can still be trusted today even in the midst of social, political, and financial upheaval.  Even in the midst of calamity, the beauty of the LORD—His delight, approval, and favor—is still available to those who turn their hearts to Him (Ps. 90:17).  In our frailty, God gives us His strength. “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me” (2 Timothy 4:17)

Each of us has been given life by God.  We celebrate our beginning annually on our birthday—life before the dash.  Our “earthly end”—life after the dash—represents the end of our mortal life and the beginning of our eternal life with Christ.  God has created us for His purpose; it is in that place of created purpose, that we live our lives—we live our life on the dash.  This is where the daily events of living take place and we become “God’s workmanship” (Ep. 2:10).  As you prepare for 2020, make the most of your life on the dash.  Like Moses, pray, “Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”  (New Living Translation)

God Goes Before Us

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

As 2019 winds down, 2020 prepares to emerge with new opportunities and challenges. In Asian culture these two realities of life—opportunities and challenges—are often combined into one word which is interpreted as “change”.

In our text today, Moses is communicating several key changes for the Israelites. Moses announces that he will not be accompanying them into the Promised Land and that God had chosen a new leader to continue the Exodus journey. It will now be Joshua who must complete the work that Moses began. This announcement, I’m sure, caused great fear and anxiety for the 2+ million people who had put all their trust in Moses.

However, God wanted Joshua and the Israelites to know that they would not be expected to accomplish these new challenges by themselves. God would not send warriors or angels to help them but it would be God Himself Who would assure their success. God would go before them (vv. 3 and 8) and God would be with them (v. 6). To “go before and with them” speaks to God’s omnipresence. He is “everywhere present” in His totality and at the same time. No one but God could make such a promise. To further dispel their fears, God added His promise that He would “never leave nor forsake them”.   Jesus offered similar words of comfort to His disciples prior to His crucifixion (John 14:1-3).

Change comes on many levels in our lives.

Change may occur at a macro-level—that which deals with the events on a broad social, political, or economic level. Look at the affect world events have on the price of gas, or medical discovery has on the availability of adequate healthcare.

Change may surface on a micro-level–up close and personal. We may change our job, relocate to a new city, or introduce new people into our circle of friends. Wherever the point of entry of the change or the size of the challenge, believers must remember we are never left alone to face them.

God’s promise to the Israelites and Joshua should be a source of strength and comfort as believers today experience the enormous changes in the 21st century. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrew 13:8). All His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Living in this fast paced, ever changing world, we need the Triune God Who will not only go before us but will also never leave us. We can rest assured that not only does God continually goes before us (Ps. 85:13) but we can confidently proclaim that we are never out of the presence of God (Ps. 139:7-10).

The Second Advent, Part 2

 

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

Expectancy influences preparation. One’s expectancy allows them to anticipate and plan for events that could potentially impact their life. We rise early to watch the morning traffic report and weather forecast for the day. Why? Because we want to be prepared–no surprises! If it’s true that expectancy influences our preparation, how are we to prepare for the certain return of Christ?

We are to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. The 1990 War on Drugs commercial instructed young people to, “Just say no!” We are to be of the same mindset as we resist the pull of this present age. Christ has redeemed us from ALL iniquity. He has paid the price for our “freedom from sin and death”, a price that no one on earth could ever pay (Heb. 2:14-15).

We are to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. Christ has left us His presence and power to assist us in living a holy life. The Holy Spirit enables us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) Reading His Word and prayer daily transforms us into the image of Christ (Rom. 12:2). “He who began a good work in us, is able to perform it (keep us holy) until the day of Jesus Christ (His second return)” (Phil. 1:6).

We are to wait for the blessed hope. As we wait for His return, we are to be working. God desires that we be zealous, “eager to do good.” Uncertainty surrounding the future is the perfect backdrop for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “The fields are already white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Expectancy influences preparation.  Christ is coming again. He will first return for His Church at a time called the Rapture and take us back to heaven to be with Him (1Thess. 4:13-18).  Nonbelievers, however, will be “left behind” to enter a seven-year period of trouble and desolation known as The Great Tribulation.  At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return to the earth to judge mankind for their unbelief and their sins (Rev. 20: 11-15).

Expectancy influences preparation. By anticipating future events, we can make adequate plans for events that could potentially impact our life. Christ’s return is a certainty. With His Second Coming the world, as we know it today, will change forever. That being the case, should we not give even more attention to prepare for His return? By accepting Christ as Lord and Savior TODAY, believers have made adequate preparation for Christ’s return TOMORROW because “God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).

The Second Advent, Part 1

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mat 24:36 NIV)

Retailers kicked off Christmas 2019 in October. They hope this will improve their chances to rebound from loses they experienced in the first half of the year. Parents utilize layaways and presales to fill Christmas gift requests without “breaking the bank.” Recipes are being exchanged and updated as families prepare for special meals with friends and families.

Christmas pageants and carols are being practiced until perfection is accomplished. All this and more is being done in preparation for Christmas—the celebrated arrival of Emmanuel, the Messiah, The Christ Child.  However, I have this one question: “How are we preparing for the Second Advent—the Second Coming of Christ?”

The first arrival of Christ was foretold by many of the Old Testament prophets. We read many of these prophecies during Advent programs and church services; the most frequently cited are found in the Book of Isaiah.

  • (Isa 7:14 NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • (Isa 9:6 NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • (Isa 11:1 NIV) A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
  • (Isa 28:16 NIV) So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

Luke chronicles two believers who faithfully and enthusiastically anticipated the first coming of Christ. Simeon awaited the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25-32).  Anna, an eighty-four (84) year old widow “did not depart from the temple and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 236-38). That’s anticipation!

Jesus spoke of the certainty of His Second Coming (Matt. 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28).   Although He was pressed by His disciples to give the “day and hour” (Matt. 24:36), Jesus instead emphasized faithfulness, watchfulness, stewardship, expectancy, and preparation. As He ascended to heaven, the angels foretold the disciples that “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1: 11). That certainty!

While Christ’s first arrival marked the offering of salvation and deliverance to all mankind, His Second Coming will be ”very different” (Read Revelations 19:11-16).   The child in the Christmas manger will return as the “righteous judge” (2Tim. 4:8).

It is important that we fully embrace the reality of Christ’s Second Coming. It is equally important that we prepare for it!  For nonbelievers, the reality of Christ’s return is an invitation to repent and turn to Him TODAY. For believers, it reinforces the need to share the Good News of Jesus Christ EVERYDAY to EVERYONE God places in our path. Are you prepared for His Second Coming?

Prayers of Invocation

“Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

1 Chronicles 16:11 (KJV)

For my 2019 Advent reading I added several books that focused on worship litanies and prayers. I have especially enjoyed reading prayers of invocation. Prayers of invocation are designed to invite the Presence of God into the time and space we’ve designated for worship. Advent, the beginning of the new Christian year, is a great time to incorporate this type of prayer into our personal spiritual discipline. Why you might ask?

Prayers of invocation cause us to give pause during the busyness of our life and refocus on God. We often forget our true purpose and eternal destiny. As children of God and joint heirs with Christ, we are to no longer live for ourselves but to live for the glory of God and service to mankind (2 Cor. 5:15). Prayers of invocation remind us of the sovereignty of God.

“Lord, into your most holy presence we now come. Calm our anxious spirits. Remove the distractions that would keep us from you here today. Break down the walls of separation that we have built to keep you from our hardened hearts. Lead us in joy and celebration of the only reality worth knowing, that you love us as we are. Free us for joyful obedience to your claim and call on our lives this day and every day.  Amen.”

Prayers of invocation open us to the work of the Spirit and help us to realize the power of God’s love. As we pray in “spirit and truth”, we invite the Holy Spirit to enter those “secret places in our heart and in our mind”—the places where the transforming work of sanctification can begin. As the Holy Spirit works within us, we are set free from the bondage of sin, healed of our brokenness, and conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

“Let us rise and meet our Creator. Let us raise our hands and voices in acknowledgment that God’s Holy Spirit moves among us, calling us to new life in Christ. Let us raise our eyes, knowing that this new life of stewardship for all God’s creation is seen in the life of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.”

Lastly, prayers of invocation reveal our prideful and independent nature. When this happens we relegate God to a subordinate place on our lives. We deny the truth that God is the “Great I AM.” God is and will continue to be whatever we need to navigate in this life. Our Eternal Father is and has all we need for this present life and the life to come (Rev. 1:8).

“Lord, we come before your throne of grace not trusting in ourselves but in your marvelous and gracious love as it seeks expression among us. May we listen for your still, small voice as it speaks to us today and as it boldly proclaims the undeniable reality of your love that will not let us go. Stir our hearts and our imaginations that we may see beyond appearances of what is to the reality of what can be. In the name and spirit of the holy child, Jesus our Lord, we pray.  Amen.”

In 2020, add prayers of invocation to your prayer discipline. Invite God into your time and space in this new way. Your prayer life will be greatly expanded when you do.

Prayers from Advent and Christmas, David N. Mosser

The Divine Gift Exchange

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. Romans 5:18 (KJV)

The tradition of exchanging gifts did not originate with man.  It was God who first gave the very best of Himself in exchange for man’s sinful soul.  Upon acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior, the new believer is gifted with a new heart and a new mind to follow God (Ezek. 36:26); he becomes part of the Body of Christ (The Church) with spiritual gifts for evangelizing, equipping, and edifying others.  The Apostle James states that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above who never changes (James 1:17).   God’s divine gift exchange exceeds anything that man can ever imagine.

In our study text, the Apostle Paul reminds the church in Rome of the perfect and free gift they have received in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:15-18).  As a result of the first Adam’s sin, man was condemned and separated from God.  In contrast, with the arrival of the second Adam (Jesus Christ), God offered to mankind the free gift of grace—the gift that would last throughout eternity.   What is the unique nature of that gift exchange?

The “incarnate life”—deity for humanity.  The arrival of Christ into history represented a holy God putting on flesh and dwelling with us (Matt. 1:23).  It was necessary that a lamb be provided for the atonement of sin (Lev. 4:32-35).  So God prepared for Himself a human body that would later become the “perfect lamb” for the sins of man (Heb. 9:13-14).  Jesus’ incarnation would mean that “whomsoever would call upon the name of the Lord would be saved” (Acts 2:21).

The “exchanged life”—righteousness for sin.  The Christ child was more than a sweet babe in swaddling clothing.  He was the long awaited “Consolation of Israel” and “redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:25, 38).  Just as the prophets had foretold, Jesus provided the bridge whereby man could be reconciled to God (Mat. 1:21; Titus 3:4-7).  Being justified by faith in God, redeemed man would receive Christ’s imputed righteousness as if it were his own and thereby become acceptable to God (Rom. 5:1).

The “empowered life”—strength for weakness.  The arrival of the Holy Spirit after the ascension of Christ  would provide the power needed to accomplish the work that Christ had commissioned for not only His Disciples in the 1st century but also for the disciples in the 21st century (Matt. 28:19-20).  Prayer is the connection by which faith is energized.  There is an old Christian axiom that says, “Little prayer, little power; Much prayer, much power.”  Prayer and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provide the strength needed to meet the challenges of living and ministering in this fallen world.

The “resurrected life”—life for death.  Eternal life with God.  This is the greatest of God’s gifts.  Death’s sting has been removed; the fear of death is no more.  Through spiritual regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17) and continuous renewal by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:2), Jesus pours out His life abundantly on us.  We now stand as heirs of God patiently wait for the redemption of our human souls for eternal life (Ep. 1:14).  “As we have born the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly; putting on the incorruption for corruption and immortality for this mortal” (1 Cor. 15: 49, 53).

We often misdirect our attention on Christmas shopping, holiday events and special parties.  While there is nothing wrong with these activities, we may often fail to acknowledge the Divine Gift and the Divine Gift Giver.  God has given us The Perfect Gift (Jesus Christ) through the ultimate gift exchange.  God has given us The Gift that will keep giving for all times and through eternity. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,  And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David.” Luke 1:68-69

Participate in the greatest gift exchange in your life by giving Jesus Christ YOUR LIFE.  St. Augustine said it this way, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”  If you have not given your life to Him, do it today.

I Hate to Wait: The Process of Waiting

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.  Ps. 39:7 (RSV)

What goes on in our mind while we are waiting?  Why are we so anxious?  Why is waiting so difficult?   What is waiting really about?

Waiting is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.  It is the act of staying in one place or remaining inactive in expectation for something.

There are many views with regard to our “waiting tolerance.”  Some are unique to specific generational differences while others are common to all people regardless of age, socio-economic factors, or gender.

While much of our anxiety can be allayed based on the quality of the item one is waiting for, there is still a level of frustration that cannot be eliminated.

In a paper written by David Maister, The Psychology of Waiting Lines, he provides some insight into the psychology of waiting.  The main point is that the actual time spent waiting may have little to do with how long the wait feels.  What appears common is the whole issue of what to do with the time a person spends while waiting—the “unoccupied time”.

Unoccupied time is the window where the anxiety of waiting is the greatest.  It is the time spent in the present until the delayed outcome occurs. Give people something to occupy their time, and the wait will feel shorter.  How do you spend the unoccupied time while waiting?  (More on this aspect of waiting next week)

On a spiritual level, when one is waiting for healing, a word from the Lord, or emotional/financial release, the psychology of waiting takes on a distinctive difference.   Our normal perspective on waiting changes in lights of who we’re waiting for (God) and our level of confidence in the final outcome (also God’s).

In today’s text, David is crying out to God in a time of trouble.  His initial frustration in waiting is later transformed into “hope” by declaring his trust in God, who has always shown Himself faithful to his people and His Covenant.   David knows God will continue to do so, even when God’s specific plan for the future might not be fully understood.  Comfort in waiting is based on an overwhelming confidence or hope in God personally.

Interestingly, in my research of the word, “wait”, I was “re-directed” to the word “hope”.   Hope is one of the four principles we explore during Advent season in which we commemorate mankind’s waiting for Emmanuel, the promised Messiah.  Hope focuses attention on both “what awaits us” (Lam. 3:26; Ps. 37:34) and “the object of our wait” (Ps. 130:5-6).

In both the Old and New Testament the connection to hope and waiting is built on a personal relationship with and reliance on God.  While waiting in the secular world, causes frustration and anxiety, when anchored to God, waiting is filled with patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm (Acts 1:4).  Those who wait on God have the assurance that their waiting is for a specific purpose, which God is orchestrating.

There are many reasons we may have a problem with waiting.  Do any of these characteristics impact your waiting on God?

  • Impatience. We want what we want now.  Impatience is the inability to control one’s desire for action (Numbers 20:10-12).
  • Pride. We operate with an inflated opinion of what’s the best answer or solution to our problem or situation.  Pride is the conceited sense of one’s superiority (Hosea 7:8-10)
  • Independence.  “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”  Independence is the need to control one’s affairs apart from outside influences (Luke 15:12-16), even God.
  • Stubbornness. Who can talk a fool out of his folly? Stubbornness entails the trait of being difficult to handle or overcome (Proverbs 26:3-5)

As believers, we are not exempt from suffering and experiencing tragedy, yet we can face the future expectantly, waiting for the movement of God in our life.  We may have to wait a while for the full experience of the good that God intends for is, but be assured, God is fully committed to everyone who makes a faith commitment to him.

“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you;

therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him”.  Isaiah 30:18 

God, Time, and Waiting

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  Psalm 90:4 (RSV)

What is the socially acceptable time to wait?  In college, in the event the professor was delayed, we were instructed to wait for fifteen minutes before leaving.  If you go to a restaurant, you most likely can expect to wait before being seated.  The time wait is generally dependent on time of day, the popularity of the restaurant and the quality of the food. Regardless of “acceptability”, we still, at one time or another, are required to wait.

One of the biggest frustrations for individuals living in the 21st century is waiting.  Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours each year waiting in line. The dominant cost of waiting is an emotional one: stress, boredom, that nagging sensation that one’s life is slipping away.

There are varying leveling of “waiting tolerance” based on generational differences, expectations, and the attraction of the desired outcome.

Baby Boomers, who tend to be more intentional in planning, are fairly comfortable with waiting based on the value of the outcome—waiting is tied to worth.  This is seen in their loyalty to career/employers and investment in relationship building.

For Generation X and Y, waiting is generally acceptable when it is connected to the availability of the desired item, vis-à-vis waiting for the latest IPhone or designer tennis shoe.

For Generation Z, born into a world that screams “instant gratification”, waiting is viewed as a negative—denoting that something is “broken” or “wrong” therefore interfering with receipt of their desired outcome.

All generations hate to wait—the difference lies in “what” or “who” is causing the delay—that even includes God.

What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?

Are the rules different?

If we are waiting for God—His intervention or direction—let me answer the second question first.  Yes, the “rules” are different because God is spirit—everlasting, eternal and immortal (John 4:24).

God exists not in the confines of human time but in eternity where there is no time (Is. 57:15).  Time simply put is duration.  Our earthly time pieces mark change in duration that indicate the passage of time.  Eternity, in contrast, expresses the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning.  God has no beginning or end. He is outside the realm of time (2 Pet. 3:8).

In Psalm 90:4, Moses used a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A second is no different from an eon; a billion years pass like seconds to the eternal God.

In answer to the second question,“What is the “spiritually” acceptable time to wait?”

My answer is simple—as long as God tells you to wait.  The thing about waiting for God is that there is no set or agreed upon time when an answer might be forthcoming.  You can move ahead of God, but you risk missing or delaying the desired purpose God has for your life (Eph. 2:10).

Waiting for God is where our faith comes into play.  We must believe and trust that God loves us and will always do what is best for us.  What we see as a delay is really God’s “best timing” for our life.  What makes the waiting for God “acceptable” (I struggle for a better word) is that God is always worth the wait (Lam. 3:26).  Next week we’ll spend time exploring why we “hate to wait.”

Waiting

Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.  James 5:7 (NRS)

Advent has begun.  For the secular world, this season is spent in anticipation of Christmas.  And how will the world prepare for its arrival?  By catching all the sales, looking for the best deals, and insuring their credit limit will survive the endless gift lists for friends and family.

How different are these times we live in now from those in which Jesus  first made entrance into the world.  In the 21st century, we are thought to be more informed and equipped due to technological enhancements and scientific improvements.  But are we?

Global warming is crashing in—changing the ecological systems of our time.  Social and economic disparities cry out for justice and fairness throughout this nation and the world.  Senseless killings and rising suicides, especially among our young people, confound communities who continuously ask, “why” and “when will it end?”

For believers Advent marks something definitively different—it is a time of waiting.  Advent is a time when we not only wait to celebrate and commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ but we should also be joyfully anticipating  Christ’s “imminent” return for His Church (2 Tim. 4:8).

Imminent comes from the Latin word meaning “to overhang”.  To say that something is imminent is to say that it is hanging over you and about to fall, in a metaphorical way.  Christ will return but we don’t know when.  So we wait for his return.

Remember what the angels told the disciples at the ascension of Christ:

“You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky?  This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”  (Acts 1:11, The Message)

In the Gospels, Jesus spoke with certainty about His Second Coming or the Second Advent (Matt. 16:27; 24:44; John 14:1-3; Luke 21:34-36).  How then are we to wait?

In our scripture text, James, the brother of Jesus speaks of patience while waiting for a desired outcome.  He uses the illustration of the farmer and his need to wait on that which he has no control and yet is  critical for his future provision—rain.  It is the same with believers as we await Christ’s return.  We don’t know when it will happen, but we know we desperately need Him both now and through eternity.

And so we wait—we wait for the hope of One whose return is imminent yet unknown specifically when.  We hope in the midst of what appears hopeless, because God alone can resolve what ails the world.  So we wait for his return (Prov. 20:22). 

I contend that waiting—godly waiting –is a spiritual discipline that every believer should cultivate and embrace versus accept with great resignation.   So for this Advent season, we will explore “Learning to Wait on the Lord”—the purpose , the process, and the privilege of waiting.  See you next week.

After Christmas

“He is Our Peace.” Ephesians 2:14 (KJV)

For many, Christmas is the most favorite time of the year.  With Christmas comes the hope of “peace on earth, good will toward men.”  We exchange cards that reflect our feelings about this special time of the year. Some send cards that speak of the love, joy, and peace of Christmas; others choose cards that extend season’s greetings and happy holidays.  With the winding down of Christmas season 2017, I’d like to ask this question?  After Christmas, when the tree and trimmings come down, when the gift giving ceases, and the caroling ends, what will you do with Christmas?

What happens to the …

  • Unmerited forgiveness and grace extended to irritable neighbors and estranged relationships?
  • Abundant care and concern seen in special collections, gifts and other acts of human philanthropy?
  • Indiscriminate displays of kindness and brotherly love for others?

Why can’t we keep the spirit of Christmas throughout the year?

First, we must examine “what spirit” we are talking about.  Sadly, the spirit of Christmas, we experience, is tied to commercialism, materialism, and greed.  It is the result of the “lusts of the eye” (1 John 2:16).  However, we who are “in Christ” have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (Gal 5:24).  We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) extending love and grace throughout the year.

Second, we need to understand the “source” of the spirit of Christmas.  For the spirit of Christmas to be lasting, it must be connected to the reason for Christmas—Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life (John 3:16).  Christ came that our joy might be full (John 15:11).  It is Jesus Christ who is our peace (Eph. 2:14).

Finally, we need to examine the “true gifts” of Christmas.  As a result of Christ’s birth, we have eternal life.  Eternal life is not only a “time indication” it defines the “quality of

life” for the Christian believer.  Eternal life includes His “love”, from which we can never be separated (Rom. 8: 35-39), His unspeakable “joy” (1 Peter 1:8), and His “peace,” that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7).  And if that isn’t enough, He has given us His presence through the Holy Spirit (John 16:5-15) while He advocates for us before God the Father (1 John 2:1).

The spirit of Christmas is not found in cards, or trees or gifts but in The Gift, Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, The Gift that keeps on giving after Christmas—even throughout eternity.

SELAH:   Now that Christmas 2017 is past, how will you extend the spirit of Christ into 2018?