The following are messages one can probably hear this holiday season.
SUBMISSION, HUMILITY AND SURRENDER
God coming into the world, much so saving it from the curse of sin is hardly acceptable. Because how can that be? As the song “Who Am I” goes, “who am I that the Lord who fills the earth” and dwells on high would care to come down from heaven “and know my name”. Joe Stowell may have put it right when he wrote in the 2010 issue of the “Our Daily Bread” about him, a father, trying to impress on his kids of his accomplishments as a speaker, lecturer and writer. Having found that his kids are hardly interested on his speaking engagements and books he authored he concluded, “Let’s face it- for the most part, kids are not impressed with our accomplishments. So the only way to bridge the gap is to meet them where they are, to get into their world- like getting into a game of Chutes and Ladders or playing catch in the backyard”. Relating the experience on how the Lord came down to us, he continued “…He stooped down to our level when He came to this earth… only then could we begin to understand how worthy He is of our utmost adoration and praise.’
Of course, the story of the birth of Jesus Christ as recorded in Matthew 1: 18- 25 continuing to Chapter 2 or in Luke 1: 26- 80 continuing up to verse 21 of the 2nd chapter, is replete with messages that encourages submission, humility and surrender in us. We can read in Luke 2:7, 12 that the first born of Mary was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Joseph, Jesus earthly father, submitted to the Word of the Lord instead of following his own resolve to divorced Mary, his bethroted, quietly as we can read in Matthew 1: 18- 19. Lastly, in Matthew 2: 1- 12 we can read the story of the three wise men, who stood fast in their knowledge that the King of the Jews was born having seen His star, surrendered their rich comforts and bore the struggles of a primitive journey from the “east” to Jerusalem only to worship Jesus, the “Lord of all” (Romans 10: 12).
As we celebrate this season and all the many “Christmas” holidays to come, should we not submit to that truth that Jesus coming in us is the real reason for all the celebration?
Even in the origin of “Christmas” we can learn of this message of submission, humility and surrender. The original festival from which “Christmas” originated is said to be paganistic. Perhaps it is because those who observed and practiced it were unbelievers or believers of other gods. Church leaders then have to find a way to inject the truth of the Word of God in all these festivities which also consisted of gift giving and cessation of hostilities among others. And since these celebrations were being held during the winter solstice, church leaders back then decided that the most fitting church festival to cover it is the Feast of the Nativity purportedly to have first happen at such a time of the year.
There is much in what is written to confirm the approximate period of the time of the birth, like the time when Caesar Augustus issued the decree to have all the world registered (Luke 2:1), the time when Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:2), the 6th month mentioned in Luke 1:26 to the time the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt (Luke 1:41). But the dates of disputing on the date, as with most disputes, lead only to more division and should be gone. More so, attacks on the church for embracing a pagan holiday as among its own or for people to participate in should be dead gone. Whether the birth was December 25 or any other day is not to be made a point of contention anymore when we really cannot ascertain when it was.
Now the point is that the church leaders had committed an act that is also clothed with the characters of submission, humility and surrender. In order that the celebrators of this festival will find Truth on whom they could focus their celebrations, the church leaders back then decided to put the birthday of the Lord on it. The Lord Jesus Christ thus, became the center of it all. Whether it remained so up to these days of extravagance and excessive emphasis on what is considered temporal is not mine to judge. I know however that we can take all these celebrations personally by not losing our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ as was written in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.
The act of God in coming to the flesh and dwelling among us and all other characters in that most beautiful story of all is thus sending an undying message of submission, humility and surrender to us. Whoever we are dealing with in our daily activities it will surely pay appropriately if we handle it with how the Lord impressed Himself on us.
JOY, PEACE, PROSPERITY AND GIVING
Our own birthdays are our coming into this world. It is a day that will always be a cause for celebration for who will not be glad in one’s coming to life.
In almost like manner, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is a real reason to celebrate. It is described by an angel as “good news of great joy that will be for all the people”. Christmas whenever it is, is a cause of joyful celebration for all people. It is an event that makes many souls sing.
As for peace, it is a natural occurrence brought about by the presence of God in us through Christ. Jesus is called “Immanuel, which mean God with us” (Matthew 1: 23). His birth then or His coming and presence with us in this earth mean we can have peace. Remember what happened when Jesus came into the boat full of trembling disciples (Matthew 14: 32)?
Now there are some truths written that necessitates for us to clarify the nature of that peace that Jesus brought to earth. Jesus in Matthew 10: 34 says, “…I have not come to bring peace but a sword”. He would then followed it up with even more clear ways on how He would make all men come to the knowledge of Him. Thus, we can only surmise that this peace He brings is dependent upon the cleansing He also causes or by the conviction of man through the Holy Spirit. It is based on a personal conviction to believe that indeed God is able to do what He says He will.
Also in the perspective of the character Herod, the coming of God to man is a time to wreak havoc causing “Rachel” to weep for her children (Matthew 2: 16- 18). The Word remains that Jesus’ presence brings peace and the character of Herod only tells us to remain on guard despite the peace of His lordship and saving grace in us.
So the peace Jesus brings is dependent on the work of God Himself and our tenacity to hold on to the hope of a life in Christ Jesus despite all the trials of life. The world had been given peace by the Prince of Peace, we only need to seek and pursue it. We can read Isaiah 26: 3 stating, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you”.
Now if the coming and presence of the Lord in us fathers peace then prosperity is its grandson. It is not a secret that a city, or any community that records a zero crime rate will draw all kinds of business and material growth to it. Any businessman or financial manager will with all prudence consider the peace and order situation of one locality before finally deciding to put into play his most precious capital. And it is not that material prosperity results from it, prosperity is drawn to it like a giant hole would to all the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Consider the still unknown Mary and Joseph playing hosts to three wise men who were impliedly people of great influence and material wealth since recently before coming to worship this baby in a manger had paid courtesy call to the king of that place. And now here they are offering their most precious and choicest treasures (Matthew 2: 11). What had drawn all that scholarly years and immense wealth to this humble manger with a couple in flight? It was something that is beyond all imagination and understanding- a perfect peace borne by a baby in a manger, the central figure without whom that story would have been an ordinary folk tale.
LOVE FOR OTHERS
The apostle Paul had so completely wrote in detail the nature of Christian love in his letters, most common of all is in the 13th Chapter of his 1st epistle to the Corinthians. Perhaps, there is no teacher we have listened who have not correctly spoken of love. Even the media is not lacking in messages of love. In short, we do not have a shortage of message regarding the subject of love. Yet we still see and sometimes experience evidenced of hate. I can only surmise so that even in our midst since we often have to deal with petty fights. Do we wonder why?
One of the major obstacles to loving the way the Lord prescribed is choice. We seem to have the tendency to choose whom to love. But when God decided to intervene for man to triumph over sin and death, He did so for all people. Are we to limit our loving by our limited reasoning? Man can never limit the work of God. Consider those people who saw that dying man in that dangerous road from Jericho to Jerusalem. What had kept the others from doing what that Samaritan had done? Bible scholars today are pointing to the law, and in part could very well be the point of the Lord. When He commanded us to love our neighbors He added that we do it as we do ourselves. Do we love ourselves only because others say so? Why can we not rebuke a friend for his wrongdoing? Why can we not pay attention to that beggar in the street? Love is above all, the law cannot cover love but love covers many as we can read in 1 Peter 4: 8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins”.
There are a multitude of other reasons we can cite why we choose not to love. We can blame our weaknesses, financial status in life, burdens to carry, etc. Let us pray that the God of love, mercy, and grace grant us the strength and wisdom to keep on loving others earnestly.
All Scriptures have been quoted from the English Standard Version.