Last year at this time, I wrote about the true meaning of Christmas – as I see it. I did not want to totally reprint something that I wrote for my column from last year, but I do want to pull a few paragraphs from my 2014 Christmas column because I think they are worthy of repeating.
First of all, I believe that God wants us to enjoy the Christmas season and all of the events that go along with it (church, shopping, Christmas concerts, great times with family and friends, etc.). However, I also believe that God wants us to both experience, and to know the true meaning of Christmas. HE wants us to share the GOOD NEWS that surrounds the birth of HIS son (and our Lord and Savior) Jesus Christ.
God wants us also to share the HOPE that surrounds our faith in knowing that Jesus did RISE from the dead on the Third Day after his crucifixion and that Jesus will come again! Everything that happened and the exact way that it all happened (Jesus’ birth, mission and death) was foretold in the scriptures hundreds of years before any of it took place. Furthermore, we should have no doubt whatsoever (and absolute total faith) that we will see our deceased loved ones (family and friends) again one day. Jesus tells us so….all that we have to do is to follow and accept HIM into our hearts.
A friend told me a few days ago that she recently read a statement citing that there is only one TRUE BLACK FRIDAY where REAL SAVINGS occur! Think about it! Assuredly, a truer statement has rarely been spoken! HE wants us to fulfill our mission and HIS calling for us by letting our light shine and for us to be an example to others in letting them see HIM in us by both our words, our actions in how we treat others and our good deeds….always. These things are always most important as we “walk the walk.” Again, sorry for repeating something from last year in the words above, but again, I felt that it was important to do so.
In moving on to some new thoughts and words for this Christmas, I once again had an opportunity to exercise my role as a “fill-in” Sunday School teacher this past Sunday. Our study this past Sunday focussed on the Apostle Paul. Paul was such a great and committed follower of Jesus. Paul has always been one of my favorite people mentioned in the Holy Bible. Early on, Paul was dedicated to the persecution of Jesus’ early followers (Disciples). As such, Paul rallied in every possible way against Jesus’ mission in the beginning. However, God changed Paul. As God so often does, he used the least, most far-fetched person imaginable, changed everything about him and then used him as a key instrument in helping to spread the peace, hope and love of the God’s word. God used Paul to help spread the miracle of Jesus’ birth, ministry and death throughout the world.
So, in studying and preparing to teach Sunday School last week, I began to realize that there is a great deal to be learned from Paul’s life and mission. Also, it hit me that there is also a Christmas message to be found from studying Paul.
Paul’s three missionary journeys spanned a time period of about ten years and covered a major portion of Asia Minor and Europe. Paul helped to build/found several churches in these regions. Paul’s mission was to help spread Christ’s message to the world – beyond Israel.
Of course, nothing would have taken place at all (we would not be saved from our sins by Jesus’ death..which means that we would not even be here today) if it were not for the birth of Jesus which we celebrate at Christmas. Three Bible verses come to mind as a result of this statement. First of all, Luke 2:11(NIV) says: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” And, John 3:16(NIV) says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” And finally, John 3:17(NIV) says: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
And so it is with Paul’s message, Paul’s letters and Paul’s mission. When Paul would arrive at a new destination, he would tell the good news of God’s promise being fulfilled by raising up Jesus. Paul wanted us to know that the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to all of us, if we choose to believe and to follow Jesus. Revelation 3:20(NIV) says: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.” The good deeds that I mentioned earlier are extremely important. However, they do not get us into heaven. The only way into heaven is to accept, believe and follow Jesus.
Paul wanted us to live our lives following Jesus, to be on fire for God so much that it will be obvious to everyone in our lives and they will want what we have. Of course as mentioned above, there is only one way to get it! Also, Paul did not let anyone or anything stand in his way in terms of his beliefs and his message. Paul was jailed, tortured, punished, ridiculed and finally be-headed for his beliefs in following Jesus. In short, he let nothing stand in his way. Paul stood up for Jesus even though it was often not the popular or acceptable thing to do. If we apply this to our lives, we will accept and worship God above all else just as God instructs us to do.
And so, as you can see, there is a true meaning/message of Christmas to be learned from studying the Apostle Paul. May you all have a GREAT Christmas! Enjoy the season! And, may you all experience the true meaning of Christmas! Also, I wish you all a very blessed and most prosperous New Year!
Randy Brown is Publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.