We appreciate so much your faithful prayers on our behalf. We are enjoying the time at home and the Christmas holidays. It has been a true blessing to renew friendships and collect ourselves a little. We are trying to be good stewards of ourselves as we return from Siberia and spend time in spiritual and personal rejuvenation in light of our departure for Russia in January. Again, I want to thank your for your faithful prayers on our behalf. We can feel the sustaining power of them during this time at home, and we praise God for your faithful ministry of intercession in our lives and ministry.
One of the things that is always on our hearts at this time of year is to maintain a focus on Christ during the celebration of His birth. Keeping Christ the center of Christmas has always been an important focus for us. When the children were at home, we did this by singing Christmas carols each night and by reading through the Christmas revelation in the Holy Scriptures. We also sought to keep Christ the center of Christmas by engaging in special outreach activities to keep our focus upon His Incarnation and its accompanying message of salvation. Follow the link at the end of this blog for a great tool for family devotionals built around Christmas Carols (click on "Christmas Carols and the Word").
It is our hope that this activity will compliment your family devotions, and if you do not have a family time in the Word, prayer and worship each evening, that this tool will start your family on a spiritual journey as you share it each evening in your family devotions.
By following the link at the end of this blog, you will also find "The Story of the Candy Cane.â€ť We print this out and attach it to real candy canes with brightly colored ribbon to use as a witness during this season in two ways:
1. We keep a basket of these bedecked candy canes on a table by our front door. Any time a delivery man, neighbor, mail man, or service person comes to the door, we always give them one of these special candy canes with a word of witness.
2. It is my habit to buy a quantity of New Testaments from a discount service such as Christian Book Distributors. I wrap each New Testament and include an aforementioned candy cane. I then go by and see all the merchants and service personnel that I regularly encounter in the market place. I give them the gift along with a word of testimony about my first Christmas as a Christian and the difference Christ made in my life.
There is much concern nowadays about the secularization of Christmas. I always remind those in my Bible studies and Sunday school classes that it is not the secular worldâ€™s responsibility to maintain the meaning of Christmas. Instead, God holds us, His children, responsible for that. It is not my neighborâ€™s responsibility to remember my wife, my children, my brothers and sisterâ€™s birthdays. At my sonâ€™s birthday, I do not accost the manager of Wal-Mart as to why he did not send my son a gift or at least a birthday card. The manager of Wal-Mart has no idea who my son is. No, this is my responsibility. It is the family's responsibility to honor their fellow family members on their birthdays. So it is with the family of God. It is we, Christâ€™s brothers, who are responsible for the celebrations which are to honor Him on His birthday; we are to tell otherâ€™s about His birth, why we are so excited about it and the difference His birth made in our lives.
1 John 3:1 is clear that we are now part of Godâ€™s family and as such the celebration of Jesus Christ becomes our responsibility by stating, â€śsee how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.â€ť
The only way for Christians to return Christ to His rightful position during this time of year is for us to lead the merchants, the neighbors, the service personal, the teachers and government officials in our sphere of interest to a personal relationship with Christ. Reflect for a moment, when was the last time you said these words, â€śWould you like to pray now to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?â€ť The answer to this reflection is the true reason for the secularization of Christmas. Christ will return to a central position in the celebration of Christmas when Christians, one by one, lead the merchants, the neighbors, the service personal, the teachers and government officials in their sphere of influence to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This Christmas give the greatest gift of all â€“ eternal life through Christ our Lord.
As we are reminded in Romans 10:8-15, "But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for 'Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!'"
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Grace Community Int.