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"He Cared Enough to Send the Very Best"
by Barbara Smith

Merry Christmas You don't have to die.
Happy Holidays Your debt to Me is paid in full.
Best Wishes for a Happy Eternity with Me.

Christmas cards that link debt and death hardly seem to be comforting messages, but if God sent out Christmas cards, these might be the greetings that He would send.

God does care enough to send the very best, and sent the world a priceless Christmas greeting almost two thousand years ago. And like the television ads for other expensive greeting cards, His message to the world He loved bore a crown: first a crown of thorns. His card also arrives with distinctive strokes so that we recognize The Sender: it was a child, the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15), from the line of King David (Jeremiah 23.5) and born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Some in Judah recognized God's signature (Luke 2:25-38).

No Christmas greeting of ours can compare with God's message that Christ will free human souls to live forever in peace with Him. Yet, millions of human beings toss His greeting aside at Christmas, and design a seasonal celebration to suit themselves. In America, people increasingly dodge anything "religious" and substitute sentiment or merriment for substance. The empty messages (such as "happy holidays" or "warm greetings") the world uses to replace God's greeting are often less profound than the bumper sticker that proclaims, "Exercise, eat right, and die anyway."

What Have You Done with God's Greeting?
Some people refuse to recognize God's Christmas greeting announcing the birth of His Son because they cannot acknowledge their own mortality. "Death" even makes Christians squirm. Yet, if at Christmas we ignore the imminence of death we fail to understand the gift of God's Son. Some people simply recast God's gift and use it as a stimulus for consumption. Retailers and entertainers blazon their intentions: "'Tis the season to be jolly" or "eat, drink and be merry" without specifying what event calls for celebration. If that babe had not been born in Bethlehem, we would have nothing more to celebrate than our own short, sometimes squalid lives. (1 Corinthians 15:32-33) How would we decorate the shopping mall for that message, or frame Christmas commercials for prime time TV?

Many people -- even Christians -- decorate their seasonal festivities with the emblems of God's greeting, but ignore the greeting itself. We hum oratorios and repeat liturgies that declare the glory of God, but refrain from allowing them to move our hearts. We manipulate images of that holy night 2,000 years ago, arranging and rearranging the truth until it fits over our fireplaces. We give the creche and figures our own meaning, and ignore the meaning God gave to the real event. We send and receive cards that express warm sentiments, and omit the warmest: that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Modern skeptics reason correctly that a newborn baby cannot deliver anyone from the ravages of death -- much less defeat death for everyone. However, the baby born in Bethlehem did not stay frozen in time, imprisoned in a decorative creche on your mantel. Nor, is Jesus Christ confined forever as a cute image on an Anne Geddes Christmas card. The baby grew to a man, and the man -- the Son of God -- lives and keeps His promises. He gave His word that death will not defeat us; scripture promises us that "He will swallow up death for all time, and the LORD God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 25:8) That man, who began as the baby we commemorate in the creche, gave His life so that death will never overpower us!

A little imaginary exercise which a pastor recently proposed will prove if you really know why to celebrate Christmas. Imagine, when you climb into bed and drift off to sleep tonight, that this will be your last evening alive on earth. Things you have not done will become someone else's chores; things that now belong to you will belong to others; and your worldly dreams and worldly troubles also will cease. Ask yourself, "Where will I be then?" Taking this test could take you right to the heart of Christmas and illustrate plainly why the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is a real Christmas gift.

It is a good reason to celebrate, when you escape from the jaws of death. Even knowing that you can escape, is worth celebrating. Death's monstrous power over us, which once promised doom, has been removed. The shadow of death remains, but Christ has promised to conduct us safely past that frightening shadow. (Psalm 23: 4)

God has sent you a Christmas greeting: God gave His Son so that we might live through faith in Christ, absolved from the judgment for our sin that we have rightly earned. Therefore, don't let your celebration of Christmas be like the world's celebration, which is simply like whistling past the graveyard. Put Life in your Christmas celebration, remembering the greeting that Gods gave you, and pass it onto others. Enjoy God's Christmas greetings like John 3:16-17; Isaiah 25:8, 53; Psalms 23:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8. Then take and spread the Good News.

Merry Christmas! You don't have to die -- pass it on!


© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)




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