Christmas: Great Joy for ALL People

December 21, 2018

“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!” (Luke 2:10)

A man named Tim Hansel lived every day with excruciating pain. He wrote in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancing, that “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 wrote about in his letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5: 22-23) As evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, joy could be paraphrased “happiness that does not make sense.”

The derivation of the word “happiness” has to do with what happens to us. But this joy, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit living in us, is not controlled by what happens to us. That is why it does not make sense, especially to 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 17 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 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.

Are you choosing to be joyful?

Dick Woodward, 20 December 2013


Jesus: God With Us

December 18, 2018

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

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, consider bringing 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. Carefully read the Christmas scriptures in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke, and then read the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John.

You will see that the essence of Christmas can be described by the word incarnation. The biblical word ‘carne’ is the Greek word for ‘flesh.’ When we consider Christmas, we find ourselves face to face with the incarnation – the miracle that God decided to make human flesh God’s address when Christ was born in Bethlehem.

When asked about Jesus a little boy replied: “Jesus is God with skin on.”

Emmanuel, God with us.

Dick Woodward,  A Christmas Prescription


Seeking Jesus: Where is He?

December 11, 2018

“… Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Many Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men (& women) still find Him. Wise men (& women) still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men (& women) still ask the question, “Where is He?”

If we want to know where Jesus is today we should look where Love is. Paul writes that Jesus 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 is “incarnation,” meaning literally “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 intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of Christ’s love that addresses their pain we will discover where Jesus is.

We must also look where the Light is. We can place ourselves where there’s spiritual darkness and ask God to pass Christ’s light through us to address the darkness.

And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life John 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.

As conduits of Jesus when we go (and are) where the hurting are, there is darkness, and the quality of life is lacking – we discover by experience where He is.

Dick Woodward, 13 December 2011


Having (& sharing) Hope @ the Holidays

December 7, 2018

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

Do you know, or can you remember what it’s like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope? In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us three lasting eternal values in life are faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest of these values because God is love. Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.

In the heart of every human being, God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good will intersect our lives. That is what the author of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have Good News that can give hope to the hopeless. We must not let unbelief silence us. If we never share the Good News of the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be, we should ask ourselves, “do we really believe the Gospel of Christmas?”

Because if we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share that Good News with the people Jesus told us He came to seek and to save. (Luke 19:10) We show that we believe in the Christmas that shall be when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men, we should ask the question, “Where is He?” Seek Him until we find Him, then worship Him and give the gift of our lives to Him. Then, like those shepherds, we should tell everybody the Good News that Christmas has come – and Christmas is coming again to our world.

Dick Woodward, from A Christmas Prescription


Christmas Greetings

December 22, 2017

“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)

 When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they announced they were bringing good tidings of great joy to all people – a wonderful Christmas greeting! Good tidings not just for good people, but 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: “… be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)

Some Christians live their faith as if the last words of Jesus were: “Now don’t let it get around.” They live 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 should be a community of people who exist for the benefit of 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, Jesus. (Isaiah 53:6)

Two more great Christmas words are “mercy” and “grace.” The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve, and God’s grace lavishes on us all kinds of marvelous things we do not deserve. God’s mercy and grace give us more blessings than we can count if we have the faith to receive them.

Dick Woodward, 23 December 2011


The Christmas That Was

December 19, 2017

“Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.” (Luke 2:20)

A teenager once asked me the question, “If Christmas was surrounded by all these miracles, why is it that 30 years later Jesus had such a hard time convincing everybody He was the Messiah?” If you will carefully read the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, you will find the answer: the Christmas that was involved very few people.

When Angel Gabriel told an old priest what God was going to do, the priest didn’t believe God.  When Angel Gabriel informed the priest that God was going to do Christmas anyway, unbelief shut the mouth of the priest. Zechariah had the greatest sermon to preach any priest has ever had, but he was smitten with muteness. As the miracle of Christmas unfolded, he couldn’t preach his greatest sermon.

God then shared the miracle with a very godly young woman who was to be the birth mother of Jesus. Mary’s response (called the “Magnificat”) showed how godly she was, because in 10 verses of Scripture she referenced the Old Testament 23 times. But, as godly as she was, she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. God then informed her fiancé, Joseph, because it was on a need to know basis and he surely had a need to know.

God then told some lowly shepherds what God was doing. Why tell them?  He told them because before and after they saw the miracle they told everybody about the Christmas that was.

Luke has given us 132 verses that tell us about Christmas. Are we telling people about the miracle of the Christmas that was?

Dick Woodward, 21 December 2010


Saving Faith: Never Ever Alone

December 12, 2017

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

If this happy and joyful holiday season finds you unhappy because you are mourning the loss of a loved one, in my previous post I suggested you should ask the right questions. My second suggestion is to listen to God’s answers to the right questions. For example, listen to the answer of the One Who was God in the flesh and gave us the second beatitude that promised comfort when we are mourning.

Jesus gave this answer (John 11:25-26) to Martha who had lost her brother, Lazarus, whom she and Jesus loved deeply. To paraphrase, Jesus told Martha that if a man like her brother believed in Him, even though he died he would live. Jesus then opened this great reality to all of us with the declaration that whoever believes and lives his or her life in fellowship with Him will never die.

Make the observation when the Lord appears to be redundant He is not merely repeating Himself. The second time Jesus makes this declaration He opens the reality of everlasting life to whoever meets two prerequisites: if we believe in Him and if we live our lives in Him, we will never die.

Faith alone can save but the faith that saves is never alone.

When Jesus focuses the validating faith of living in Him, He uses an expression that is found nearly 200 times in the New Testament. It means to be in relationship with Him the way a branch is in relationship with a vine.

Dick Woodward, 14 December 2010