Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 33 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “What We Really Need For Christmas.”
Millions of people love this time of year. Christmas lights adorn streets and homes. The darkest time of the winter becomes—in some places—a beautiful winter wonderland.
I didn’t know how attached I was to Christmas lights until I’d lived in Taiwan for several months. We arrived there in May, 1971. By December, I was beginning to feel definite effects of “culture shock,” although I didn’t recognize it for what it was until several weeks later. Now, however, as I reflect back on my experience 50 years ago, it’s clear to me that six months of total immersion in Chinese culture including a “new-to-me” language, traffic, local customs, architecture, and even cars and clothing styles had resulted in an ever-increasing emotional hunger for something—anything—familiar!
Then I saw the lights!
One evening, our language school provided a Christmas party for us students. We came from a wide cross-section of mostly English-speaking places—the USA, of course, but also places like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain. We represented a potpourri of Christian denominations, business people, military, and others, brought together by our common need to learn Mandarin or Taiwanese. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and broadening horizons for all of us.
At the Christmas party I stepped outside for a few minutes to catch some fresh air. It was then I noticed a building all decked out with what looked like Christmas lights from back home in America. Another gentleman I only knew from the language school had come outside with me.
“Wow! Look at the Christmas lights!” I said.
“Well,” he replied, “I see lights. But, I’m not sure they’re Christmas lights. Probably just a temple or something else.”
Oh, well. I had hoped.
What do we really need from Christmas?
Maybe we can take a clue from the angels who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flock in the fields around Bethlehem.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:8-14 NKJV).
There are a number of observations I want to share with you that occur to me as I read these verses.
First, it seems that all heaven considers the birth of the Christ child an event worthy of great celebration! And, why not? Thousands of years had passed since God promised Adam and Eve a Redeemer would come—a Savior—One who would destroy the nefarious work of the evil serpent who had deceived them into disobedience and sin. Now He has come—not in power and glory, but as a helpless, naked human baby, born to peasant parents in a shelter for animals because there was “no place in the Inn.”
And still the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
There was excitement in heaven–the redemption of Adam’s race had begun!
So, here’s a question for us: If the angels of heaven celebrated the birth of Jesus, is it not right that we should follow their example? I believe so.
True, we do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but that is unimportant. What IS important is that most of the Christian world designates December 25 as the date of his birth. Others—the Eastern Orthodox churches for instance, celebrate his birth on January 7.
Some Christians contend that because some practices from pagan religions crept into the early church we should have nothing to do with Christmas today. I totally disagree. While we certainly DO NOT need all the commercialization and common fanciful stories and legends, we most desperately DO NEED to join the shepherds, the Magi, and the heavenly angels in worshiping the newborn King of love, grace, and glory.
Of course, we need to worship our King every day, not just on Christmas, or our weekly day of rest, or on other special occasions only. We need to live a life of worship EVERY day. Our words and actions and all our communications in every relationship should carry the light of His love and grace to our world, helping dispel the darkness of superstition, disbelief, and toxic forces.
Another thought that comes to mind as we see the many Christmas lights on rooftops, trees, seasonal displays in shops and churches, and other places, let them remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.
The Apostle John begins his gospel with an introduction to Jesus as the creative “Word” of God, then says,
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.John 1:4-5 NLT
Then, as we go over to Matthew’s gospel where Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is recorded, we read these words:
You are the light of the world—like a city set on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.Matthew 5:14-16 NLT
Here we can understand that the “light” Jesus brings into the world, and which he gives to everyone, he intends for us to share wherever spiritual darkness prevails.
Right now the song we teach to little church children comes to mind . . . .
So, when we see all those displays of Christmas lights, let’s remember that each light can symbolize every believer carrying God’s promise of life, love, and salvation to all the world around them. May they inspire us to BE the light seen by our family, neighbors, and friends–not just at Christmastime, but every day all year long.
A couple of other things we need from the Bible story of Jesus’ birth are the “peace on earth” and the “goodwill to men” included in the angel’s announcement to the shepherds.
Let’s realize that “peace on earth” can only come with the presence of Jesus, the “Prince of Peace.”
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6 NLT
Isaiah’s prophecy points forward centuries in time to the birth of Jesus, then reaches into eternity when Jesus will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords forever.
Then, there’s the other part of the angels’ song—goodwill.
An actual, more literal translation of this phrase might read, “Glory to God in highest places, and on earth peace among men of goodwill.”
O that today we might know the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) among all the nations, tribes, languages, and people groups of the world! As a popular Christmas hymn says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!”
That prayer—sung so beautifully by Vince Gill and others—can be the experience of every Christian, regardless of social status, gender, ethnicity, skin color, economic standing, physical location, or any other identifying mark. God’s peace—found in the very heart of the Prince of Peace—is available to you and me right now, today. The Apostle Paul includes it as one of the fruits the Spirit produced in our spiritual heart. (See Galatians 5:22-23).
In vision the Apostle John recorded a message from the glorified Christ, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends”(Revelation 3:20).
With “Jesus in my heart,” the peace of heaven on earth can indeed “begin with me.”
May that be your prayer, and your experience this week—and always—as Christmas day 2021 approaches.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode — “New Year Coming!.”
Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you!
If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!