Dear Friends,

Christmas can be the saddest day of the year for many people. This is not a
“bah-humbug” letter about Christmas or the commercialization of
Christmas in America. I want to share what I feel is the true message of Christmas,
God’s message about Christmas – His message of hope, peace, love
and joy that the angels proclaimed the shepherds shouted about and the wise
men diligently sought after. Yet, many people do find Christmas the saddest
time of the year. Even some of my Christian friends experience sadness and even
depression at Christmas. One of the saddest days of my life was on Christmas.
In 1982, I had lost my first wife to suicide on Labor Day and my father had
died suddenly of a heart attack New Year’s Eve. In 1983, Christmas Eve
was on Saturday night and there I was in my hometown and home-place without
my wife or father and two hurting children who needed their Dad to be in the
Christmas spirit. I hardly slept at all. The next morning we went to my hometown
church and I almost passed out from exhaustion in front of everyone. The next
thing I did was so hard for everyone to understand but I told my mother and
family, “I have to get alone with Jesus even if it’s Christmas day.”
A few hours later after crying out to Him alone in my brother’s home God
did an amazing thing. He completely lifted my depression and filled me with
His love. I could hardly wait to get back to the house and share His love with
my children and family and the true Christmas message. Joy to the world the
Lord is come; and He had come to me very personally and did what only God can
do, He gave me hope, peace, love and joy in the midst of my pain.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.
Receiving Jesus as Savior and bowing to Him as King and Lord is the whole message
of Christmas. And refusing His Kingship is the root of our problems and misery.
Jesus is not just the reason for the season He is the reason for our existence.
He didn’t come just to give us a free ticket to heaven and then hear us
tell Him there is no room in our inn, our busy lives, and put Him on the periphery
of our lives. He became our Savior to deliver us, not only from hell, but also
to deliver us from sin and self-centeredness and thus an empty, purposeless
life. He came to be our King, our Lord, and until He is, we will miss the hope,
peace, love and joy He came to give to us so we could give it away to others
in His Name. When the wise men found Him, they “fell to the ground and
worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of
gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11) The wise men did what is
customary to do for kings, they presented Jesus with gifts. We too are to offer
Him our gold, our finances to build His eternal Kingdom for He is the King of
the universe. One day all the wealth of all the nations and people will be completely
given to Jesus. (Isaiah 60:11; 61:6) We are to offer Him our frankincense –
a picture of worship and sacrifice as used in Tabernacle worship; and even offer
Him our suffering (myrrh is a picture of suffering and death) as a way of fellowship
with Him (Philippians 3:10) and in such a way as to glorify Him. (1 Peter 4:14,16)

We may have some merry times with family and friends and at Christmas gatherings
and even some sacred moments at church or worshiping in our homes. But these
special experiences of God’s love will evaporate like the morning dew
in summer until we bow our hearts to Jesus Christ as Lord and King and surrender
everything in our life to honor and glorify Him.

J.I. Packer, in the last two chapters of his book Knowing God, deals
with the false hopes about the Christian life and says that they are even worse
than false fears. (False fears, worrying about the future, is paying interest
on debts we don’t actually have.) But some Christians have false hopes
and expectations about life that Jesus and the Scriptures never promise. And
these hopes are greatly heightened and even more painfully disappointing at
Christmas especially the hope of love of family and friends when there are broken
and hurtful relationships. If Christ is not in the center of our hearts and
these relationships we will find them to always be less than we hope for. Even
if Christ is in the center, we still live in a fallen world and must wait for
the ultimate consummation of our hopes and longings until heaven. We must be
careful in our desire to win someone to Christ not to promise a happy life on
earth if they will just pray a prayer of “accepting Jesus”. True
followers of Jesus in the Bible and throughout history as well as our Lord Himself
suffered greatly in this life. In fact, the more we follow the Lord in obedience
the more resistance we will experience from the world, the devil and the flesh.
(John 15:18-20; Revelation 12:11; Romans 7:22-23; Also see 2 Corinthians 1:8-11
& 4:7-18 for Paul’s example in suffering.)

But they weren’t living for this life – they were living for eternity
and they were willing to wait. Yet, even in the trials of this life there is
a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7) and the peace that
Jesus gives us. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as
the world gives do I give unto you.” (John 14:27) This peace is an inner
rest and trust in fellowship with our Lord even in the midst of our suffering
and trials. (My experience in 1983 and many times since.) The world can only
wish us peace but Jesus can give us His peace because He is Real, He is with
us and He is a “very present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
I also believe the peace that Jesus had as a Man like us on this earth came
from a completely yielded will to God, an absolute trust in His Father’s
love and power, and a single-minded purpose to glorify God in all that He did.
The Christ that lived and suffered and died and rose again in resurrection power
lives in us as Christians and in His power we can live that yielded, trusting,
single-minded life to the glory of God.

Responding to God’s great gift of His Son in worship, adoration and sacrificial
love to others by giving Him the new life in Christ He gave us at salvation
is what Christmas is all about. In fact, it is what life is all about. This
is the message of Christmas, the hope, peace, love and joy of Christmas: Glorifying
our great God and King.

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said
to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has
happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ .So they hurried off and
found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had
seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this
child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they
had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:15-18,

Until He comes,

Len and Kristen

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