By Terese Tse
The annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ is here again and for the two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. At the moment, many Christians around the world are thinking of ways to celebrate: reunion with family, a tall and bright lighted Christmas tree inside the home, and a dinner table complete with sumptuous food.
Many people think of physical and material celebration alone, they forget however, that Christmas isn’t really a time to just have fun and all that. It is also a time to remember and celebrate God’s mercies over our lives- that in fullness of time He sent His one and only begotten son to save and redeem us from sin.
Rev. Manasseh Iorbee who is a Resident Pastor of NKST, Vor in Makurdi, has reminded Christians about the true massage of Christmas which he said is to give up one’s self to think of others, lorbee further said, Christians ought to think of how much God loves them during this season. Let us take a closer look at who we were before we met Christ. The fact that we were deep in sins and yet God sent Jesus for us shows how deep, how wide, how high, and how immense His love is for us. If we take time during this period to honestly look at who we were, we will begin to realize how undeserving we are of His unconditional and unfailing love. Think about it. How could the holy, righteous and just God love us so much that He would give up his only son for us to be reconciled with him?
“Think of the many people around you who need to receive His love. Christ came for you and for all. He died for everybody to be given the opportunity to receive forgiveness, salvation and reconciliation with God the father. You might be enjoying your life in Christ alright but how about your family, how about your friends, how about that neighbour near you? Have you shared the gospel with them? Do you care whether they also repented of their sins, received Christ’s salvation and are enjoying God’s relationship with him? You are not the only one Christ came for. Christ came for all, and we should take that to heart.
Think about what you can give to God in response to His love. We wish to receive good gifts every Christmas. We pray to God to bless us and give us our heart desires. God can make us happy alright, but more than that, He wants us to be holy and obedient to him. He wants us to be a people fashioned in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ His son. Let’s all think of ways to honour God. Let’s all seek Him and ask him what can I offer you Lord? This Christmas, let’s make it all about Him, and not about us.
We are ready for Christmas, not when we have all the gifts but when we are ready to give all of ourselves to Christ. Prepare your heart not just your home for this year’s Christmas. Spend intentional time digging into God’s words as Christmas approaches. Get a traditional or make your own calendar. Each day, as you enjoy the treat or treasures inside, read and reflect on a Bible verse about the Christmas story or the gospel.
Decide with your family and friends on something to do together each week towards Christmas that will be beneficial to the community. And more so, pray and ask God how you can prepare your heart to celebrate the entrance of His son into the world.
Rev. Engr. Bismarck Kwen, an Assistant Pastor at NKST Buter in Gboko suggests reading the gospel, “do not just read the gospel; rather, spend a few minutes reflecting upon it, inserting yourself into the passage, and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak in the quiet of your heart. Though the holiday season can be stressful, the four weeks leading up to the Christmas Eve, also known as Advent, is a great time to set aside a bit space each day to ready our hearts for Christmas. Make and take time to think. Reflect on what it means to be a reflection of the light of God in the world. It is really difficult in this season to find a time for meditation, sitting quietly for a while, thinking, especially about gratitude, but it makes a difference when you do.
Support a good cause by buying a gift, spending time with family and friends and contributing to Christmas carols or other programmes for the benefit of those in need. There is a lot of preparation that goes on this time of the year and there is a lot to do but we have to be mindful that we are preparing to celebrate the coming of Christ and make conscious efforts to please God rather than pleasing ourselves. Our homes and places of work should also reflect the love of Christ.
Try to get the light of salvation. Oftentimes, people go out for the gifts, tree, music, food, family and decorations. They are so busy shopping, working, drinking and enjoying life and put God last on the list. They are half-hearted in their relationship with the God of Christmas so remember that a Christian life is like a light.
Mark out the Christmas list-make prayer requests like the Biblical Zacharias did, he wanted a child, and had prayed for a very long time for one and God answered him during this time. Zacharias evidently knew that children are gifts from God. We need to realize that as we prepare for Christmas, if we have the right relationship with God, He will supply our needs. God promised back in Isaiah and in Malachi that a child would come into the world and prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah and that is happening now.
Get excited about the greatness of Jesus. Get excited that the son of God has come and dwelt among us. Be excited that it is his birthday and we are celebrating (Matt. 2:1-2). So if you only have money for your kids and yourselves this Christmas, then you have been brainwashed from the real meaning of Christmas and you are not prepared for it. If you have done all the shopping, but have no time for God in your life – you are not prepared for the real Christmas. In your home, Jesus needs to be the focus of everything so don’t let anything crowd Him out.
Preach the message of Christmas to others. You do not necessarily have to stand before a crowd or on a stage shouting Bible verses. There are subtle ways to preach Christmas. You can send some kind of greetings cards-use religious cards and religious stamps and sign them with something like either ‘May God bless you’ or ‘I will be praying for you at Christmas’. When greeting people, say, ‘Merry Christmas’, not ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons greetings’. People of God will not be offended.
The angels announced the good news of Christmas and we are also required to be the messengers of the gospel. Volunteer to do the good works, help heal hurts caused by sin, including your own sins. Each day, do a good thing-say a prayer for a person, help a neighbour in need and make a sacrifice for a special intention. You can clean out the closets of old clothes or toys, and give them to charity. It is in giving that we believe and through our charitable works, we will receive the love of Christ Himself.
Therefore, prepare this season to receive Christ as though He were coming for the first time. Make Christmas a celebration of the birth of our saviour and the great gift of faith we have ever received. By striving to live in the presence of Christ during this season, we will receive the best present of all- our Saviour!