Merry Christmas! Yes, we'll be hearing that a lot in just a few weeks. And that's great because I love Christmas. I doubt I'm the only one. I have even been known to listen to Christmas music in the middle of summer. Merry Christmas! Wonderful greeting, but do we always think about what it means? Just two words that we have been saying since we were able to help decorate the bottom two feet of the Christmas tree. So often those words can be used flippantly; a seasonal greeting that replaces "hello" or "goodbye." Two easy words that we say when we get together with family or friends; a short phrase we say when we run into an old acquaintance at the mall. When we greet these people, do we even realize what we're saying or are we using "Merry Christmas" like a generic salute?
And then we see how that beautiful greeting has been pulled into the political arena. Many stores require their workers to wish people a "happy holidays" to avoid insult by overlooking their different religious celebrations. It's sad, but just a reminder that this world is not always a "Christian friendly" place to live. In retaliation Christians are told to go out of their way to say "Merry Christmas" to workers. I'm all for showing my faith and have been known to wish the cashier a "Merry Christmas" after they said "happy holidays." Once the cashier even gave me a big smile and heartily wished me a Merry Christmas in reply; against store policy. It's good to show our faith especially in a world that keeps moving to the way of secularism. It's great to bless strangers with those words with the intent of proclaiming our Lord. Can you imagine the conversation you can have if someone responds, "What does that mean?" The good news we could share with them! But if we say "Merry Christmas" just to test how someone will respond, then we make it into a weapon. It seems like a misuse of the joyful news we get
Instead, shouldn't we use the words "Merry Christmas" to glorify our God? After all, those very words remind us that every promise has been fulfilled. We who were once dead in our sins have been given life through his life and death. His resurrection is the light that takes away every fear of our eternity. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4-5)
Not only did God say he loves us, he showed it. Jesus, God from eternity, came to live among his creation; power and majesty and perfection all wrapped up in that small humble bundle. A life lived without a single sin so that he might be the perfect sacrifice. That small baby who grew up to be the man lifted up on that cross only to be lowered down after his death. That child who was honored by foreign dignitaries and praised by angels was the same one who rose from the grave and opened heaven for us. Joy! Peace! Rejoice! the Messiah is born! "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)
When we greet our friends and family members this Christmas, let's use those two words as a way to remind them of the glory of our God. When we meet strangers, let's use that greeting as a way to open opportunities for us to share with them the great news. And may we also listen to those words and grow in thanks to our amazing God who brought his light and life into our hearts! Oh, and Merry Christmas!
Dread. Relief. Anticipation. Excitement. Emotions may vary. Reality is inescapable. It's time to go back to school. For teenagers and parents, six-year-olds and scholarly young adults, summer vacation is over. School busses run. Young and old hit the books. Books. Math books, science books, history books, business books. There seems to be no end of books. Studying them can wear us out. Yet we keep doing it. We keep telling our children to do it.
Gaining earthly knowledge can begin to feel like the heart of life. Without even trying, our thoughts wander from the importance of teaching Scripture, giving children the chance to serve others with Christ's love, focusing our lives on sharing Jesus. Instead, "If one could just get a good education. . ." Someone got a great education. He then became very sad. The reason? Death. Death made all efforts to gain wisdom and knowledge seem meaningless. In the end, what really was accomplished? The student succeeded in wearing himself out completely. (Ecclesiastes 2:14).
Is earthly education then pointless? It is if we imagine the true meaning of life comes from good grades and added degrees. If we try to group success and happiness in this way, we will fail. We may seem to succeed, but we will waste our lives-much effort and much weariness and then death.
There was somebody, however, who had in his group the capacity to pursue knowledge and retain every bit of it, using his time on earth to be seen by others as the wisest, most knowledgeable of all. He lived not for earthly glory and recognition. He humbled himself and lived first to do his Father's will (cf John 4:34). Even when the opinions of others labeled him a fool, he lost no time in loving the truth, and living the truth of a one-of-a-kind book full of direction and promise, a book that prophesized a perfect Savior. For all our misdirected priorities and for all our sinful love of earthly success, he then died. Justice rained down in full upon Jesus. Love flowed out, also in full. Through the suffering and blood, then his death and Easter life, came our full forgiveness, our new and eternal life.
Somebody loved you more than he loved himself. More than he loved his own education. More than he loved books. Most books, that is. Thank you Jesus. It's not wrong to love first the book that is eternal life. It's not wrong to love the book that tells you of tragedy, your own, and triumph, your own. It's not wrong to love the book that describes a path of thankful obedience for you to follow in every detail.
God surely does bring blessings through a Christian's faithful study of other books. For education can help us gain worldly wealth to use for sharing Christ. Reading books can increase abilities for use in showing love to others. But these books mean nothing, dear friends, if the "BEST BOOK" is left behind. Bring it with you each Sunday as you come to worship and study it with other disciples. Reach for it daily as you face the next challenge or question related to your teenage experience. Take it along with you as you head off for college and arm yourself against Satan's subtle snares. Bring it along with you to the workplace when your job takes you on the road.
On its own, the study of books only makes us tired (cf Eccl 12:12). There is one BOOK that gives us life. (cf 2 Timothy 3:14-17). Treasure it always!
J.A.M. stands for Jesus in the Afternoon for Me. J.A.M. is a Wednesday after-school program for children in grades 1-5. All are welcome to attend especially those who do not have a church home or Sunday school.
Children gather in St. Paul's fellowship hall after arriving from their school (they can get shuttled by bus from their school to St. Paul’s--Ask your child’s bus driver for details). The sessions begin with a snack, free time (games), a Bible lesson (beginning around 3:50), singing and craft. Children are to be picked up at 5:00 p.m. You can register your child when you bring them or by clicking the link below to our online registration form.
J.A.M. is FREE and a fun way for your child to learn valuable lessons for life and bring them closer to God.
For more information click on the link below to the J.A.M. handbook or call St. Paul's church and school office 783-2552 extension 0.