Monday, December 21, 2015

What Christmas Really Is.

Is it the jingle bells, the stocking stuffers, the fruitcake, the wonderful smell of pine? The family gatherings, the honey-glazed ham and cranberry turkey with mustard sauce, the eggnog, ugly sweaters or chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Those are lovely and quite enjoyable parts of the holiday season but are of no significance whatsoever when answering the real question; what is Christmas?

Christmas my lovelies is salvation for everyone and in everything. There is a being who lived in heaven eons before this earth was even made, who was so dearly loved and wonderfully created that he sat on the right hand of Almighty God. He was a marvel in heaven and even the angels hailed Him. This same being is who God chose to send to earth, as one of us, like us, in His own image and likeness to bear the pain and suffering of mankind. He chose to do his Father's will by laying down His own life only to take it up again so that we wretched souls may not die, but live eternally.  1 John 5:13, " These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." What better gift can we as mere mortals ask for? In our modern age, there are people who feel as though all this is considered old-fashioned and that it doesn't apply to 2015. Our God and Christ are timeless. Remember that time was created for man while in his fleshly body.When we hear His name, we ought not think of some being separate from ourselves as he was born and lived to show us how our Father created us to live. If we seek understanding from above, we shall be shown all the deeper meanings to Jesus parables and teachings. He came so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. This is not the eternal life spoken of after our bodies die but so that our human lives may be more abundant as well.. He showed us that our minds are precious beyond measure and hold the power to build up or to tear down. He was in constant communion with God and needed to be to face the many trials of this life. When He spoke, He didn't speak doubtfully but rather with great faith in the omnipotence of his Father and with authority, with the assurance of His own strength through God, as we should do similarly. He told us that he did not come to destroy but to fulfill. His is most definitely not a name to fear but to uplift.

John 6:47, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

On Saturday night I stayed up until 4 a.m. watching, "The Greatest Story Ever Told". It was a movie I watched as a child but the true impact was not felt until my adulthood. As hard-pressed as I was to turn off the television I just couldn't. It was released all the way back in 1965 and starred such oldtime and great actors as Charlton Heston (as John the Baptist) and Max von Sydow (as Jesus), but the acting was impeccable in that movie! I urge any of you who may be interested to check it out. The words spoken by Christ in the Bible will have far greater depth and meaning hearing them spoken with such intensity, grace and authority. Christ truly is the perfect man we all should strive to emulate. His love for God and man is unfailing. His tender, loving-kindness unmatched.

In a world of such chaos and calamity, it is wonderfully comforting to know that a Holy Redeemer and Great Intercessor is in such close reach. He is only a genuine prayer away and promises that he will never leave neither forsake us once we call on his name. Now it should make sense why we ought not call His name in vain. Straying a little off topic here but some believe uttering the word, "lord" to be blaspheming if spoken out of context when they cry, "Jesus Christ", at the simplest of mishaps. His name is NOT to be toyed with and that is why God's system created us all to have names specific to us and not just titles. Some avid Bible readers may also wonder why we don't call Him Emmanuel ("God with us") as prophesied in scripture:

Isaiah 7:14 predicted, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In the New Testament, Matthew 1:22-23 confirms that the birth of Jesus fulfilled this important prophecy, stating, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)." Some have wondered why Jesus was not named Immanuel instead. Why wouldn't He have been called by the name Immanuel?

The first reason is found in the name Immanuel. It means "God with us." The prediction by Isaiah was in reference to who the Messiah would be, not necessarily what He would be physically named. Jesus came to live as God in human form.

Second, Immanuel was only one of many names used in reference to Jesus. In fact, Isaiah 9:6 also taught, "his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Each of these names reveals important information regarding the nature and work of the Messiah. However, Jesus was not called these names during His early life. He was simply known as Jesus.

Third, the angel who appeared to Mary commanded her to name Him Jesus, not Immanuel: "you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:31). An angel also appeared to Joseph, saying, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This dream was noted as a fulfillment of the name Immanuel as predicted by Isaiah (Matthew 1:22-24).

When I look around each Christmas season and try to absorb how quickly the year has gone by and ease myself into the spirit of the season, I see people stressing themselves to the max and losing their minds, losing sleep, losing money and even losing their lives to live up to the worldly standards and hedonistic hype of Christmas. Some people put themselves in tremendous debt for the next year just to take a shopping trip, or to refurnish their house or buy a new car, all for what? For sure it is not to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. Rather, more often than not, it's to keep up with The Jones' and to feel as though they are doing just as good or better than the next guy. Christ only requires our hearts, not our wallets. I understand where the tradition of gifting started but remember, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were gifts for the one immaculately born, who came from heaven above as God made manifest in the flesh, and who will  ultimately save the world and reign King of kings and Lord of lords. That should be something to think about for the many who only think of sales and credit during Christmastime. Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity, the holiday has become a significant event and a key sales period for retailers and businesses. The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world.

The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh by the Three Wise Men for Jesus at his birth were valuable items and were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

For those of us who are fortunate enough to give this season, let's help those in need and try our best to be our brother's keeper. There are tons of folks out there who are going to be flossing the most grandiose of gifts, strutting about in the latest and illest kicks, buying the most ridiculous and costly of gadgets for our children, Virgin Remy on fleek, and expecting a gold medal of some sort for being "best parent", when we have a brother or sister out there who they won't even pick up the phone and call, or Whatsapp that's totally free! This is one bogus part of the holidays that bothers me but fortunately for some, this is the only time of year that they can at least see them or have a meal or a drink for free. The world has changed so much that it seems normal for it to be this way but it is not. There are many out there who are all alone and dread this time of year. For them, this is a time of utter seclusion and sadness because they may have lost someone or people who were near and dear to them. For some, circumstances of life just have it that those near to their heart may not live in close proximity. There are also those who don't follow Christ and therefore don't comprehend what all of this is about. Whatever the reasons may be, remember two things: 1) That there is always something to be grateful for in your life. 2) That not everyone is as fortunate as you may be. My husband and his friends just attended yet another funeral after the brutal murder of another one of their good friends. Imagine a time of year that should be so exciting filled instead with loss, grief, mourning and tremendous expense. The loss of a loved one is  a very difficult thing to cope with however it is the love and support of those around us that help us get through.

The Spirit of Christ lives in each and every one of us and all it takes is for us to tap into it and awaken it. Christ helps, heals, saves, delivers, comforts and loves. Remember that God is love therefore Jesus must also be. I remember a little rhyme growing up that says, "Love is something that if you give it away, you end up having more." Love is the foundation of it all and it is also one of those magical things that you can give away and still keep.

 This Yuletide season, make it a goal to help brighten the season for someone else. At church yesterday, the sermon was fittingly about this same topic seeing the December 25th is only four days away. Reverend Stubbs, at St. Michael's Methodist Church urged his members and visitors in his sermon this Christmas, when they go and have their family gatherings and dinner parties to stand out from the rest and call everyone to prayer before sitting down to eat and drink and be merry. It was that part of the sermon that touched me and made me want to do this post today. Many of us get so caught up in dressing up and partying that we forget just what we're sitting down to celebrate together. It is Jesus people, who is the reason for the season. It is his party! We gather and do all of this stuff to celebrate his entrance to this plane and his ascension for our salvation even though His birthday is not on the 25th. Jesus also said, "Where several gather in my name, there shall I be.", so it would surely be a blessed and joyous occasion indeed! The very least one can do is thank God for yet another year to spend learning about Him, making memories with family, friends and loved ones and to remember those who are no longer with us.

When I was younger and studying with another denomination, I didn't even believe that we should celebrate Christmas because Christ didn't call for us to. Easter, his crucifixion and resurrection was what was told of us to commemorate. Nowadays though, with so much hatred and strife, tension and pain around us, we could use all the love that is in us to possibly share. Santa is another story. There is nothing paganistic though about loving and sharing with one another on Christmas for the birth  of our coming King. Let's just not morph into Oscar The Grouch come January 1st. The only way to remedy that is to keep Christ at the center of all we do this Christmas holiday.

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