Christmas: The gift of your presence!

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Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20

By: Fritz Olivier, PhD., D.Min.

To be true to ourselves, one must tell the wonderful story of Christmas.

Every Christmas year there is beautiful story to tell somewhere in the world about Jesus Christ. While the angel says, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people”; Luke describes it from the “multitude of the heavenly host” with the angel praising: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” [Luke 2: 10, 14].

When I was very young, about 7 to 10 years old, and woke up early on Christmas day, I was amazed to see on the top my shoes, next to my bed, a beautiful, wrapped box. Happy, I quickly opened it to see a lovely gift from Santa.

My father and mother always told me Santa came during my sleep to bring the gift because I was a good child and a good student. I trusted every word they said and even imagined how Santa came about to my house, which door or which window he went in and out.

A short story

In my neighborhood, it was the same thing. My childhood friends also received their gift, and everyone were showing what they had. It was joy all over the youngsters of my age, the joy to play with our toys, the joy to play together and the joy to play at least a moment with other’s toys. Whether small or big, happiness was at the center of everyone’s life. What a good time!

During my adolescence, I realized that Santa was not real and that the gifts were properly bought by my parents and hidden somewhere for me not to see them until Christmas. I was not disappointed. I became enlighten with good mementos to the point, telling the story about my early age reminded me of my beloved father and mother who did all they could to please me, even when life was not so welcoming for them in their struggle to survive their daily living.

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just a few miles south of Jerusalem in the cave at the base of the Tower of the Flock, used by shepherds for birthing sheep in inclement weather, just as Micah had prophesied.” [1]James D. Quiggle https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-private-commentary-on-the-bible-lukes-gospel-1-1-12-59/id1579599805.

Since the shepherds were not living too far, sat around their campfire and keeping watch by night over their flock, one of God’s messengers told them to go and find “a Savior, who is the Lord Christ.” As the messenger had said, they found the three signs: (1) a baby, (2) wrapped in swaddling clothes, (3) lying in the phátnè in the tower of the flock. [2]“The church father Jerome (AD 347–420), who lived in Jerusalem, stated the tower was nine-tenths of a mile from Bethlehem [Bromiley, s. v. “Eder, Tower of”]; see also Jerome; Letter 108, … Continue reading.

The living good news

The gift of Christmas is about good news, the gift of God to humanity: Jesus Christ He sent, to save the life of all with his testimony, his wonders, and the promise of eternal life.

Most people expect good news in their everyday life, whether in the family, at work or at any other place. Joy seems to be what every human is hoping it to be. Oral Roberts use to say whenever he started his ministry: “Something good is going to happen to you” [3]https://thislandpress.com/2012/11/18/something-good-is-going-to-happen-to-you/ which became the lyric wrote by “Ralph Carmichael” [4]https://www.lyrics.cat/lyrics+ralph+carmichael+something+good+is+going+to+happen+to+you full of hope even during time of despair and difficulties. Part of it can be read like this:

“They were only wee children so happy at play
And told to stay quiet and out of the way;
But then came the Savior with arms open wide,
They’re part of His kingdom, make room by His side.” [5]https://namethathymn.com/hymn-lyrics/viewtopic.php?t=6552.

Christmas Day is a time to announce God’s kingdom embodied in Jesus.
• In Bethlehem, we see Jesus, God in the flesh.
• In Galilee, we see Jesus’ inaugurating God’s reign.
• In Jerusalem, we see Christ crucified and raised to give all the peoples of the world the gift of reconciliation to one another, the world, and God.
• And on Pentecost, we see the exalted Messiah, Lord, and Savior empowering mortal apostolic witnesses like us.

Jesus is the answer to our physical and spiritual realities. He was both flesh and spirit. When we have Jesus Christ in our life, we also represent the kingdom of God, the kingdom of hope, the kingdom of faith, the kingdom of joy and the kingdom of good news all the time, all the seasons and everywhere. We are the light of the world, the Bible said and “see to it, then, the light within you is not darkness.” [11: 36]. This is how Jesus governs until God’s kingdom is ultimately disclosed.

Good news is what everyone dreams except for Satan, the ruler of the world, the author of deceitful, the influencer of the mind who opposes the children of God. It may not seem real to many, but the sad reality today describes the picture of a world losing its direction toward the apostasy.

Looking at what is going on in the world today, many things are happening. Take for example, Tuesday’s opening speech by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” he said, apparently in no mood for bland diplospeak, “The international community is not ready or willing to tackle the big dramatic challenges of our age. These crises threaten the very future of humanity and the fate of our planet. Our world is in peril—and paralyzed.”

The. bad news is also what is going on in other part of the world. If we believe Jesus came for the world, then we must be concern and act at the welfare of our brothers and sisters. Many other children cannot celebrate Christmas. Max Roser wrote in his recent article: The world is awful. The world is much better. The world can be much better, “Globally 4.3% [6]https://ourworldindata.org/much-better-awful-can-be-better of children die before they are 15 years old. This is the data for 2020, the latest available year. This means that 5.9 million children die every year – 16,000 children on any average day, and 11 children every minute.2 Clearly, a world where thousands of tragedies happen every single day is awful.”

Choice of the Flesh

The current situation of the world is worrisome even in the US today. “The proportion of all Americans who report feeling extremely worried, 55%, is near an all-time high for the Mood of the Nation poll. Sixty percent of Americans felt extremely worried in September 2020 and a nearly similar 56% felt extremely worried in June 2016. » [7]https://www.apmresearchlab.org/motn/hope-worry-2022. Because most people do not accept the good news, they prefer living their own way, without the umbrella of God promises. Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. » He further added: «For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. » [12: 22b, 30-31].

The Book of Luke says: “Nothing is impossible to God” [1: 37]. Relying on His promise is the way to go. Jesus says, “I am the way.” Furthermore, one can say, out of a good heart comes good deeds. “Luke records that Jesus ‘went about doing good.’ This word has to do with bestowing benefits to others. Of being a benefactor. Or doing philanthropic work if we only receive Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.” [8]https://thepreachersword.com/2016/07/28/two-words-that-can-make-the-world-a-better-place/.

Being worried is a free choice born out of our self-creation. It produces fears and despair including financial concerns, health issues, relationships, work or school, and general stress about the future. Often time out of control, it can become a burden and may lead to anxiety or other mental health issues. It is important to find healthy ways to manage worry by depending on God promises that is the good news.

Choice of the Spirit

When I visited last year, on Christmas day, a couple I have known for a long time, I was always amazed of their joviality, their simplicity, their humility even the tone of their soft-spoken language. Parents of 3 children and 17 grandchildren, their life of love and togetherness for each other created an environment of peace catching the eyes of anyone. The self-discipline of the whole family has drawn my curiosity to the point when alone with them, I asked: is it always like that in the family? The wife responded, we see the love of God most clearly in that he gave himself to us in his Son, that is, the knowledge and enjoyment of God himself.
My husband and I always trusted His Word with no fear and apply it in our every day’s life. God really did and took care of our path as well as our family. She further added, Christmas is the occasion for all, to testify and seal the story of the family, the love of God’s gift of Christ.

Few years back, a woman was complaining during Christmas gift exchange at our church in HT, how cheap her gift was very loudly at the Fellowship Hall. She even showed that to several members. Most people took that with a sense of humor. But she was very angry and spoke louder to a point that someone came over to tell me what was going on, while I was on the other side of the aisle talking to some visitors. I asked to call her, and she came in, crying with despair trying to make the situation worst. Taking her aside to listen to her grief, I carefully heard her story and reminded her the good news that is written in the Bible. I responded with the following verse: “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you”, He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” [21: 1-4].

She looked at me with a great smile, gave me hug and told me thank you and left as quickly as she came in. She then went to apologize to the lady who happened to be a less privilege person and a widow who gave all she had, to feel welcome in the house of the children of God.

The true value of a gift depends on how you measure it. Sure, a gift with a large price tag might seem more valuable, but only by the world’s standards. God is showing that to us in a new prospective; that is the prospective of love.

Jesus, our gift, came to bring peace on earth by reconciling us to God and to one another with the power of love that casts out fear:
1. wherever the outcast are welcomed,
2. wherever the hungry are fed,
3. wherever the poor are clothed and sheltered,
4. wherever the captives are set free,
5. wherever enemies are reconciled,
6. wherever the good news is proclaimed, sins are forgiven, and lives are transformed.

What an insurance we have in celebrating Christmas day, the birth of Jesus Christ! Not only we are living the moment now, as described in the Book of Luke, we are also witnessing with the shepherds a metaphoric Jesus Christ laid in the Tower of the Flock, staring at our eyes, whispering at our ears with the power of the Holy Spirit, saying the word, thank you for the gift of your presence.

 

References

References
1James D. Quiggle https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-private-commentary-on-the-bible-lukes-gospel-1-1-12-59/id1579599805
2“The church father Jerome (AD 347–420), who lived in Jerusalem, stated the tower was nine-tenths of a mile from Bethlehem [Bromiley, s. v. “Eder, Tower of”]; see also Jerome; Letter 108, para. 10 [Schaff and Wace, NPNF, 6:200].)”
3https://thislandpress.com/2012/11/18/something-good-is-going-to-happen-to-you/
4https://www.lyrics.cat/lyrics+ralph+carmichael+something+good+is+going+to+happen+to+you
5https://namethathymn.com/hymn-lyrics/viewtopic.php?t=6552
6https://ourworldindata.org/much-better-awful-can-be-better
7https://www.apmresearchlab.org/motn/hope-worry-2022
8https://thepreachersword.com/2016/07/28/two-words-that-can-make-the-world-a-better-place/
Article Categories:
FNUIPH · Theology

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