Monday, December 31, 2012

So What is Christmas All About?

Last month we had our church's Community Get Together Christmas event. We have the CGT each month and it is a time of opening up the Church Hall to the community offering free morning tea and a place to have stalls and maybe just sit and talk or play games.

We decided to have the Christmas one in November just so it wasn't too busy for people, encouraging them to come while they had time. I was asked to give the brief talk and after picking up a free booklet from RBC ministries, we received in the office, I felt God prompt me to share the following.

I picked up a little booklet titled “So What is Christmas All About?”
Here is some of it …

The First World War began in August 1914, and by the time it had ended entire cultures had changed drastically, countries borders had moved back and forth several times and millions of people’s lives had been altered forever. Within only a few months of the start of the war, the embattled sides had settled into a system of trench warfare based on a strategy of attrition (where the last man standing ‘won’), and the war trudged on for four remorseless years.

In contrast to the brutality of the First World War, the story is told that on Christmas Day, 1914 a soldier popped his head over the top of his trench and looked out across no man’s land. Rather than throw a few grenades across the field of death littered with barbed wire, he instead tossed a couple of tins of corned beef into his enemy’s trench, knowing that both sides of the war lacked most of life’s basic essentials and were nearly always hungry. Within a minute or so, a dull thud in the soil next to him sounded the arrival of a packet of coffee and some sweets, courtesy of ‘the other side’.

Cautiously, men began to emerge from out of the relative safety of their mud coffins. Within a short while jokes were being translated from German into English and vice versa, food was pooled together for a Christmas dinner, cards were produced on makeshift tables and, finally, a game of football was being played between the two warring armies, amid shouts of delight and good humoured rivalry. The day ended with handshakes, smiles and even prayers for each other.

On 26 December the commanding authorities on both sides outlawed any repetition of the event under pain of death, and the slaughter began again in earnest. The ray of hope was wiped from the war experience, and most of the participants of the event would be dead with a year.

(I continued)
Can you recall the best Christmas you have ever had?
I wonder what it involved.
Was it lots of presents?
Lots of food?
Being at the beach?
Maybe a white Christmas overseas?
Being with family?
Celebrating with Christmas decorations galore?
Going to church and being touched by Christmas Carols?

I would imagine that for those soldiers it would have been one of the best Christmas’s they ever had and yet none of the above would have been part of it. They were far away from their families, no letters or parcels from home or warm cooked feasts, living under the terror or death every day and here was the enemy joining them to celebrate the special day. For many they would not have lived long after.

So what does this tell us about Christmas?
Each side knew what Christmas meant and wanted to show love to the other.
Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He is the Son of God who came to earth to be a human like us and then at Easter He is crucified on a cross for our sins. The ultimate gain for all is to be with God in heaven when we die. But we are sinners, we do wrong in God’s eyes and God says we cannot enter heaven if we sin.
That’s a tall order and one which none of us can complete.
God knows this so He sent His Son – Jesus – who had never sinned to die for us so that He would pay the price for us and then we can go to heaven.
In Romans 3:22-24 in the New Living Translation we read.

22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

But that cannot happen for you unless you believe in your heart that it is true and are sorry for your sins and make it your goal to stop the sinning. You can only do this by asking Jesus into your life to help you do so. 

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
But for all this to happen, God had to first come to earth and be born.
So this is where the story of Christmas comes in.
Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary on that first Christmas over 2000 years ago. Thirty three years later he was nailed to the cross, died but rose again – the first Easter.
Isn’t that a most wonderful truth?

So the start of the celebration is Christmas, and like those soldiers, we celebrate it with what we have and with who we can. It is a time of making do with whatever you have like those soldiers and enjoying the day for its true meaning.

The gifts those soldiers gave to one another was the food. The freedom to be themselves and make friends with each other for one day in the midst of the horrors of war.

God gave us the ultimate gift, the gift of Jesus as a baby, that we remember each Christmas.

As you celebrate this next month do so remembering what Christmas is REALLY all about, for without Gods’ fist gift there would be no Christ in Christmas.

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