I used to think that I would ‘just’ reach people like me who live in homes in the suburbs and who were disconnected from God but God has widened my world to include even more people from the streets of middle America to around the world.
People are writing and calling. The phone calls in the past two months have been so great we have had to try and slow them down just to be able to manage the cost of answering them as we are growing as a ministry.
As a teenager I used to write in my prayer journal that one day I felt God would call me to proclaim the Gospel all over the world, but it never occurred to me that my heart would be so deeply touched.
Along with all the people we reach in our families and suburbs, these are my people now, and if you are called to this ministry by joining us and being one of our prayer partners, a donor or you serve on one of our teams, these are the people that we together are ministering to.
Let me say it again.
If YOU are called to this community of proclamation, these are YOUR people whether you pray for them, serve on a team, donate to make it possible for them to be served or go to them on mission.
For many of these people, we are Church to them. In addition to these people that we are called to there are those who have not experienced and do not face these kinds of hardships. For them it is discovering Christ through our words, programs and the witness of our lives.
Our Messages on television and through the internet brings them alive and gives them hope.
SO WHAT DID CHRISTMAS MEAN TO ME?
So, as we are in this time of Christmas celebration that goes on for days, what does a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes mean because it sure means a whole lot more to me than it ever has before because of the year we have had, because of the year that I have had?
If I am truthful, so often we can be caught up in our selfish world by;
- The home we have
- The car we drive
- The job we do
- The money we have in the bank
- What people think of our children
- The schools our children attend
And the list goes on and then we read this by the prophet Isaiah;
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
What does Christmas mean to humanity?
It seems to get earlier and earlier, in October and November, the shops start putting out their Christmas decorations.
Everything builds to this crescendo on Christmas Day and then it is over.
The traditional Christian Christmas celebration is exactly the opposite to this however.
The Church starts the season of Advent four Sundays in advance of Christmas day. Advent is a time to prepare our heart for the coming of Jesus. In this spirit of expectation we wait for the coming of Jesus, singing songs of longing for his coming.
On Christmas Day, the REAL TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS begins and ends on January 6, which is called the Epiphany. This day celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the Magi, and in later years, the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan and the turning of water into wine.
These are the real 12 Days of Christmas.
For most of us by the time we get to Christmas we are just too exhausted to do much celebrating.
These 12 days give us the chance to reflect on the real meaning of the Incarnation, that is Jesus giving up His place at the side of the Father, and becoming a human being and walking among us.
When we prematurely stop our celebration and reflecting at the end of Christmas Day, we fail to see what Jesus means to our world in the midst of our joy and gladness, pain and unspeakable suffering.
One of the prayers for Christmas Day in the Catholic liturgy encapsulates what Christmas means for all believers:
“O God, who marvelously created and yet more
marvelously restored the dignity of human nature,
grant that we may share the divinity of him who humbled himself
to share our humanity.”
In Christ, our human nature was united to God, and when Christ enters our hearts, he brings us into that union.
From the 5th Century, the three days after Christmas Day show us different ways that Jesus coming into world affects us. They have traditionally been called feast days as they are days of celebration.
December 26th – The Feast of St Stephen
In the book of Acts, Stephen was one of the seven chosen to serve food to the widows so that the Apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the Word.
It is a day that was traditionally a day for giving leftovers to the poor.
Stephen was the first martyr, who witnessed with His life to Jesus having lived among us and changing our world.
December 27th – The Feast of St John the Evangelist
John was the only Apostle that did not die as a martyr. John witnessed by his words to Jesus being alive in our world when he wrote;
“The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).
December 28th –The Feast of the Holy Innocents
The Holy Innocents were the children murdered by King Herod when he was jealous that another King might rise up and take his throne after hearing from the three Magi that they had followed a star to see a new King.
These children were not martyrs like St Stephen who died in a heavenly vision, or were not inspired like St John to write the Gospel story.
These were innocent babes who died as the baby Christ was whisked away by Joseph and Mary to Egypt.
In them we see the long agony of those who suffer and die through human injustice, never knowing that they have been redeemed. In celebrating the Holy Innocents on December 28th, we remember the victims of abortion, of war, of abuse.
It is on this day, that like the murdered Innocents, we declare that we are saved by the sheer mercy of Christ and not by our own doing or knowing.
Christmas, when understood spiritually, is about a new Kingdom and therefore way of life that causes us to live in the assurance of eternal life and not mortal life.
Jesus’ coming has changed everything because it will turn our mourning into dancing. Our sadness to joy.
There is so much we do not understand with our human minds.
Why acts of nature occur that destroy, kill and maim?
I do not know.
Why humanity commits injustice and atrocities to each other?
I do not know.
Why some people never know Jesus?
I do not know.
What I do know is that when our eyes are opened to faith through surrendering and giving it to God, we see our life very differently. It as if we have different eyes enlightened by a knowledge that goes beyond reason that leads to peace.
This new life in us must be cultivated by actively transforming our mind and heart through prayer and earnestly seeking God.
Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let
the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may
discern for yourselves what is the will of God—what is good and
acceptable and mature.
THIS IS MY CHRISTMAS FAMILY
I do not know the names of the people in the pictures above who are in such deep pain, but I find peace knowing that this valley of tears will pass into glory.
The doorway to this assurance is us surrendering our life to God.
When we surrender, our eyes see in ways that no human eye can see, where in the light of Christmas the Son of God Jesus, walks amongst us, illuminating our way
I have prayed the prayer below countless times surrendering my life to God and I invite you to do the same in this Christmas season.
I pray Jesus who is among us in the Infant Child, would during this Christmas season enlighten your hearts and minds as we enter into a new year together.
Whether you pray for us, serve on a team, donate to make it possible or travel to people to bring Christ to them, I want you to know that Rosemary and I are grateful but so are the people we reach and in particular God who sees your heart.
If you have a moment why not commit the year ahead to God in the comments below in prayer and please know I am praying for you and those you love in 2018.