When you think of Christmas, where is the first place your mind goes? Is it decorations, presents, and Santa Claus? Or does your mind go to the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ? I must admit that the commercialization of Christmas gets me at times too. My mind goes to giving, which in and of itself is good I guess, but it also focuses on things that are secular. At times, we let Christ coming into this world become a secondary thought, rather than making it the true heart of Christmas. My challenge to all of us this year, and every year going forward, is to put the birth of Jesus and all that it means to us at the center of our thoughts and minds. For what gift could be greater than eternal life with God, which arrived on this earth as a baby in a manger?
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins. —Matthew 1:21
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. —John 3:16
God makes it clear that by sending Jesus to earth, He is offering us our salvation. God could have offered us this incredible gift in many ways, but he chose the most powerful way of all, sending Jesus to come live with us and among us. Being all-powerful and all-knowing, God already knew the sacrifices and pain that Jesus would endure by coming to earth as flesh and blood.
And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. —John 1:14
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. —John 3:5
So how should we respond to such an amazing gift? I challenge all of us to think beyond mere thanks. If we understand the depth and breadth of this gift, our hearts are without a doubt filled with joy, love, and gratitude. Furthermore, our actions follow and create a marked change in our behavior through faith. When we merely feel thanks, it rarely causes us to shift our thinking and how we go about our daily lives, but when we experience true heart change we cannot help but to feel differently, and consequently alter the way we act. This may manifest itself in many ways. When God replaces the old heart with a new one, the resulting change is observable by all. We approach life with an optimistic, God-filled spirit, and we remain grateful for everything in our lives as a result of God’s blessings upon us. We have been given eternal life, and our consistent praise to God should show it.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! —2 Corinthians 5:17
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. —1 John 5:4
As a part of salvation, we are called to be obedient. We must look to the life that Jesus led and follow His commands, and to help us do this, He has given us the Holy Spirit as a guide.
Now the God of hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. —Romans 15:13
Finally, we must go out and represent God with our hearts and our attitudes. In this most special of seasons, let yourself be a beacon of joy for others to see and yearn to be like. Let the gift of Jesus Christ transform our hearts and minds so that all will come to know Him.
A merry heart does good like medicine. —Proverbs 17:22
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! —2 Corinthians 9:15
To my fellow brethren, I am acutely aware that this time of year can be filled with all the great things above, but it can also be filled with sadness, loss, and regret. For each of you, no matter where you are, I pray that God blesses your heart and your circumstances. We are a community and we are here to help everyone through the best of times, and just as critically important, the worst of times. Whether you reach out to us or to another, please know you are loved and supported.