“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!” (Luke 2:10)
Tim Hansel lived every day with debilitating, excruciating pain. Yet, in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancing, he wrote: “pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional.” That is true for a Spirit controlled disciple of Jesus. Tim also wrote: “I can choose to be joyful.”
Joy is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit the Apostle Paul described in his letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5: 22, 23) As evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, joy can be paraphrased “happiness that does not make good sense.” The derivation of the word “happiness” pertains to what happens to us. But this joy, which is the fruit of the Spirit living in us, is not controlled by what happens to us. That is why we say it does not make good sense, especially to secular non-spiritual people. In the very short letter the Apostle Paul wrote from prison to his favorite church, the Philippians, he used the word joy seventeen times!
Appearing to the shepherds, the angels explained why their declaration would bring great joy to all people: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
Great joy came because the One born is the Savior. He is the Christ, which is the Greek way of saying the Messiah. And He is to be our Lord. Joy came because Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him. This joy is intended for all people, including you and me.
“…Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2: 1, 2)
Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men still find Him. Wise men still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men (and women) still ask the question: “Where is He?”
If we want to know where Jesus is today, we should look where the Love is. Paul writes that He is a specific quality of love. (1Corinthians 13:4-7) If we tap into that quality of love we will find ourselves connecting with God, and discover that God is connecting with us. (1 John 4:16)
The great Christmas word,“incarnation,” literally means “in flesh.” (John 1:14) The Bible tells us that incarnation also means relocation. God wants to express the quality of love God is where people are hurting. If we will intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of God’s love that addresses their pain we will discover where God is and where we want to be for the rest of our lives.
We must also look where the Light is. Then, we can deliberately place ourselves where others live in spiritual darkness and ask God to pass the Light of Christ through us to address their darkness.
And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life God labels “eternal life.” (1John 5: 11, 12) We can experience this quality of life ourselves, and we can become conduits of that Life for others.
We can go, or God may place us with the hurting, those living in darkness, and those suffering from a low quality of life. As we become God’s conduits, that’s when we discover by experience where Jesus is.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
I love Christmas lights! Where I live in Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the signature features of Christmas decorating is using white lights. We put our Christmas tree up for all of December because we enjoy the white lights so very much.
A very significant Christmas gift I received is a book I wrote this year that was delivered from the printer on the third of December. It’s called Marketplace Disciples. The thrust of this book’s message highlights the mandate Jesus gave His disciples to be the light of the world and salt of the earth.
The risen, living Christ uses the fact that we need to make a living to get the salt out of the salt shaker and the candles He has lighted on candlesticks of His choosing. We should impact the marketplace because we are authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. The values of Christ should revolutionize our ethics and the way we do business.
This year when you see the beautiful Christmas lights remember that Jesus said His light flowing through us cannot be hidden.
Dick Woodward, 17 December 2013
Editor’s Note: Marketplace Disciples, the last book my father wrote before he passed in March of 2014, is available through the website of ICM (International Cooperating Ministries.) It’s really a ‘best of Dick Woodward’s teachings’ and makes a nice Christmas present. (hint, hint)
“But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” (Luke 1:20)
A teenager once asked me this thoughtful question about Christmas: “Since there was so much hype about the birth of Jesus Christ, why is it that thirty years later nobody seemed to believe in Him? You would think everyone would have just been waiting for Him to begin His ministry!”
Actually, there were only a handful of people who knew about that first Christmas. The first one was a priest named Zechariah. He and his wife Elizabeth were a godly couple, very advanced in years. They had no children, but the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that they were going to have a child who would be the last of the prophets to tell us about the coming of the Messiah. Their son, whom they were to call John, would point at Jesus Christ and introduce Him to this world.
Zechariah did not believe the angel. He was therefore told that everything he had heard was going to happen, but he would be mute and unable to tell anyone until his child was born. This priest had the greatest sermon to preach: God was going to intersect human history! But, he could not preach it because of his unbelief.
Before you are too hard on Zechariah, let me ask you a question. The New Testament tells us more than three hundred times that God is going to intersect human history a second time when Jesus Christ comes back again. Have you ever told anyone about the Christmas to be?
“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
The holidays are the most family-oriented weeks of the year. Yet for many – those who have no family, singles, widows and widowers, the divorced among us, and those with painful and negative family experiences – the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year. As a pastor, every year I had parishioners who asked me in early November to pray for them to make it through the holidays. The hard reality is that lonely, depressed, and anxious people are lonelier, more depressed, and more anxious during the “season to be jolly” than at any other time of the year.
At the same time, the last four weeks of the year are filled with joy and happiness for millions of people and their families. Whether the holiday season is your favorite time or your most difficult time of the year, I want to share a Christmas prescription that can bring the true meaning of Christmas to your holidays and to every day of your new year.
Try to block out the advertising blitz of the commercial Christmas we have today. Carefully read the Christmas scriptures in the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and then read the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John.
God told a devout peasant girl what He was going to do. Mary believed God, but she asked Him questions and pondered these things in her heart.
Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription
Editor’s Note: During December, the blog posting elf would like to share one of Papa’s booklets, A Christmas Prescription, bit by bit with you. Be blessed this month as we ‘ponder’ the Christmas that was, the Christmas that shall be, and the Christmas that is…
“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
When the angels appeared to those frightened shepherds, they gave them a wonderful Christmas greeting. They announced that they were bringing good tidings of great joy to all people.
These good tidings were not just for Jewish people or for good people. They were to bring great joy to ALL people! That means all kinds of people – and all kinds of people everywhere!
Before He ascended, the last words of Jesus were: “… go be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).
Some enjoy their faith as if the last words of Jesus were: “Now don’t let it get around!” They live out their faith as if the Gospel is a secret to be kept.
Never forget these two beautiful Christmas words, “All people!”
The spiritual community of those who believe and follow Jesus is not to be a secret organization. It is a community of people who exist for the benefit of their non-members.
Jesus Christ came to bring good news and great joy to people who are not good. The Bible tells us that all of us have gone astray and turned every one of us to his or her own way. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that God laid the penalty for all of our sins on His Son (Isaiah 53:6).
Two more great Christmas words are “mercy” and “grace.” The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and His grace lavishes on us all kinds of marvelous things we do not deserve. His mercy and grace give us more blessings than we can count if we have the faith to receive them.
“So the Word became human and made his home among us…And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” (John 1:14 NLT)
God became human and made His home among us so we could see and not just read what He wrote in the 39 books of the Old Testament. We should find a Christmas challenge in the words of the Apostle Paul which tell us “… that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2Corinthians 4:11).
One of the reasons God did Christmas was because He felt that a written Word was not enough. He wanted us to see as well as read His Word to us. Everything Jesus was, said, and did was one great spoken Word from God to you and me (John 1: 1, 14, 18).
It is the plan of God that unbelievers in this world today should see as well as read His Word through your mortal flesh and mine. That truth, which is clearly articulated by the Apostle Paul, moved me to make an important decision in my ministry as a Bible pastor/teacher. In the early sixties I was praying about accepting an opportunity presented to me to be a radio Bible teacher. Those words of Paul were used by God to direct me to be the pastor of a church where people could see as well as hear the Word of God in my mortal flesh.
“We’re writing a Gospel a chapter each day by things that we do and things that we say. Men read what we write whether faithless or true. Say, what is the Gospel according to you?”
That should be our Christmas challenge all year long.
“…whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)
Has the joyful happy holiday season found you with a heavy heart because you have lost a loved one? I have suggested that if you want to find the happiness and comfort Jesus promised in His second beatitude to those who mourn, you should ask the right questions and listen to God’s answers to the right questions. My third suggestion was implied by Jesus as He gave an excellent right answer to Martha when he asked her, “Do you believe this?”
My third suggestion is that you believe God’s answers to the right questions. When we ask, listen, and believe, the death of someone we love is like an investment in the world to come. We have simply bought shares in heaven and we have increased our motivation to be there in the eternal dimension with Christ and with them.
A devout surgeon I know says that the word we use most in this life is “Why?” However, the word we are going to use most in the next world is going to be “Oh!” An old hymn I don’t hear much anymore proclaims: “Friends will be there I have known long ago. Joy like a river around me will flow. Yet just a smile from my Savior I know, that will be glory be glory for me!”
The whole Bible is filled with God’s answers to the right questions. When we believe those answers we will discover that the happy state Jesus promised those who mourn in one word is salvation. Salvation and the comfort He promised can begin right now and last forever if you will ask, listen, and believe! Will you do that now?
After last week’s post regarding how music expresses the inexpressible, today we are taking a time-out from the written word to enjoy words put to glorious music. My father loved music! With speakers wired all over our home in Va. Beach, he roused us to the table every morning @ 6:15a.m. blasting the theme from “Rocky” by the Boston Pops. He & Mama so loved to sing hymns. They would memorize all the verses & go over the words together, checking them in a file he used on his voice-activated computer, before singing them together with gusto.
Papa especially loved this time of year filled with carols. The Williamsburg Community Chapel piped in the amazing Christmas concert every year by video-feed for my parents to watch. He kept a picture of the WCC Choir singing Fairest Lord Jesus in pride of place in our living room. (It was a no-brainer including that one during his Memorial Celebration.)
We also recorded many Christmas concerts during the holiday season. The other night we watched his annual favorite, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and heard them sing the glorious “From Heaven on High” by Felix Mendelssohn (from his “Weihnachtslied.) Be blessed to listen!