Monday, December 20, 2010

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE

Christmas, a Time of Hope!
Luke 2:1-20
The Reverend Dr. Elmer L. Gillett
The Christmas season is my favorite time of the year, because of the magnitude   and meaning of Christmas which I have embraced. It signals for me a time of expectancy and hope in spite of what may have happened all year. It signals a fresh start from the mundane and from the difficult and seemingly impossibilities that I have encountered all year. In spite of my past, Christmas infuses an energy of resiliency to dream again and see the possibilities. The spirit of Christmas pulsates hope, because the message of Christmas is that God has come to live with His people in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ.

 However, for many Christmas can become a very difficult time of the year. It can be especially difficult to cope with a Christmas depression because everyone else seems so joyous, so reaching out feels more awkward and more remote. We don’t want to bring down those around us, we don’t want to feel “different” or alienate ourselves, and we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves either. We tend to disassociate ourselves from our own feelings and ask ourselves self defeating questions. We wonder what’s wrong with us and why we can’t just jump right on into the holiday cheer. This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year and yet we can barely drag ourselves out of bed and become functional human beings. There is a sense of gloom and despair and we are unable to function adequately.

The people before Jesus came were also experiencing gloom and despair.  The Bible says that they were walking in darkness and in the shadow of death. The prophets had declared that a Messiah was coming into the world to deliver God’s people from hopelessness and despair. The moral decadence of the community had gotten so bad that all the prophets’ voices were silent, and for 400 years there was not a prophetic voice in the nation of Israel. There was silence and no one heard the voice of the Lord. They were still conducting services to God in the temple, but they were not hearing from God.  After 400 years of silence, God sends the Angel Gabriel to announce good news to the people.

Israel was spiritually bankrupt. It was a time of external religiosity. Like much of America today, Israel was caught up with materialism, with human good deeds, and with ritual. There was a form of godliness, but they denied the power thereof. They were practical atheists—living as though God were dead or as though He were non-existent.

And so, it was into these conditions that Christ was born to deliver us from religion, from human philosophy, from materialism—indeed from sin and from all its forms.

Spiritually speaking, those days were really no different from these days. So, what does the birth of Jesus Christ mean to us? This birth—God revealed in the flesh—is the secret to godliness, the secret to happiness and inner stability and peace. But only those who will seek to know and apply what the meaning of Christ’s birth, life and work really means to them, can know the salvation Christ offers.

I have heard that at this season of the year there are more suicides, more nervous breakdowns, emotional disorders and depression than at any other time during the year. Why is this? First, because people have no room or time for Jesus Christ; the source of peace. The spirit of Christmas (from the world’s point of view) crowds out the truth of Christ. Another reason is the problem of man’s substitutes. In place of Jesus Christ men are substituting the tinsel and glitter of the world, the details of life, and they expect these “trimmings” of the holiday season to make them happy. But they can never bring true, lasting happiness. Thus, depression sets in and emotional disorders result.

What a paradox! Christ came to give peace, yet men during this holiday season have less time for Him than at any other time of the year. Why? Because they have “no room” for the Savior who came to give them His peace and life!

I would like for you to meditate with me on the announcement of the angel to the shepherds in Bethlehem. In the darkness of night, the angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to some unexpected shepherds. They were terrified, and rightly so, for this was a sudden appearance of a supernatural figure. The angel suddenly appeared out of the darkness of the night. Around him shone the radiance of glory. The glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

Thus the birth of God's long-awaited redeemer was introduced to a darkened, weary, and exhausted world. History tells us that the time of our Lord's birth was indeed a time of weariness and widespread despair among men and among the nations of the earth.

It is striking that the human emotion that was first encountered by the angelic messenger was that of fear. Men were afraid in that day. They were afraid of many things, as they are today. There was Herod the Great on the throne. Herod was cruel, and was able to accomplish his wrath upon whoever was the object of his disfavor. He had personally put to death many, even in his own family, because they disapprove his behavior. Also there were the Romans, too, with their proud legions, marching up and down across the face of the earth, holding everything in a severe and iron bondage. Many wars broke out and the economy was uncertain. The people were afraid.

Yet the first word of the angel to those shepherds in the field was "Fear not. Be not afraid."
Every Christmas season we remind each other that it is not enough for Christ to have been born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. What really counts is Christ being born in the human heart. Your Bethlehem is when Christ comes to you and is born in your heart. Therefore, to us, the angel stands to make his welcome announcement.

Did you ever wonder why we are not to fear? The reason, of course, is that a Savior has been presented -- a Deliverer, a rescuer, one who is adequate to free us from any threat and danger in any situation. That is why the shepherds were told not to be afraid. It did not make any difference what Herod or the Romans would do, there is a Deliverer, a Savior among them. A Redeemer had come who would change the situation and use it for His own glory and bring them through. Therefore the announcement of the angel was "Be not afraid."

I do not have to be afraid of tomorrow, for God is already there.

You may be experiencing the most heart wrenching time your life. Christmas is especially painful for those who have lost loved ones. That person that you treasured has been taken from you and there is a void in your life. You may have gone through a painful divorce. You may have been diagnosed with cancer or some terrible disease. You may have experienced financial crisis in your family and you don’t know how the bills will be paid. Whatever you may be going through; Messiah has come to give you hope and healing.

No matter what the trial may be, the promise of this verse is that we have a Savior, a Deliverer, especially designed to handle that problem; a Savior who is with us always. If we remember that, and look to Him, He will take us through the difficult times in our lives. He will strengthen us to face it and will give us courage and peace and joy in the midst of it. Therefore the promise of the angel was, "Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

The angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." We take Him as Savior from sins or we do not take him at all.

That was the entire reason the Lord Jesus came into this world – so that He could save us!  The Lord Jesus Christ was born into this world in Bethlehem, died on a cruel Roman Cross at Calvary in order to pay the punishment for the sins that we deserved.  Jesus was without sin.  He was the Son of God and as God, He could not sin.  However, God loved sinners so much that He punished His Son in order to pay the price for our sin. 

The Lord Jesus Christ is the One who is able to save you today!

But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Father, in the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself. I repent and renounce my sins and I receive the free gift of Eternal Life. I am sorry I sinned against you. I give you permission to come into my heart and be my Savior.

This is what Christmas must mean to us. And all the days of the year that lie ahead are to be met by the fact that we have in our midst and in our hearts, if we have come to know Him, a Savior, a Deliverer, a Rescuer, Christ the Lord. All authority has been given unto him, in heaven and on earth. No event and no circumstance can come into our lives that will be more than He can handle, more than He can take us through. 

Embrace the spirit of Christmas by inviting Christ into your life.


3 comments:

Bill and Debra said...

Great Post Linda...Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Sally said...

HAPPY HOLIDAYS Linda and this is a good message from Rev. Gillett. Some of us really need that reminder.

Have a very great day and week. Love always.

Sally

Carol said...

Hi Linda,

Last Dec 2009, was a rough on for me, my mom was so ill; she passed away in Jan 2010.

Very nice Christmas message from Rev.Gillett.

May God bless you and your family. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all.


Love, Carol and family.