With a global pandemic, lockdowns, economic woes, a contested Presidential election, and more, this has been quite an unusual year. While the wise man noted that “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), from our perspective it can seem like we are living in unprecedented times.
As the events of this year have unfolded, there are some important truths that have been highlighted. These have always been true, but they are more apparent in light of recent events. Let us briefly consider a few points.
The Future Is Unpredictable
Many plans that were made for this year had to be postponed, altered, or cancelled altogether. While there never have been guarantees as far as our future plans are concerned, this year has made this reality even clearer. The wise man wrote, “For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). James reminded us, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). This year should serve as a reminder for us that we cannot predict what will transpire in the days, months, and years to come.
Man Does Not Have All the Answers
As people around the world were faced with a previously unknown virus, it was clear that, despite the best efforts of doctors and government officials, no one was sure of the best way to deal with the situation. The Proverb writer said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). In other words, man will never find all of the answers he is looking for – even those who are seemingly in the best position to have the resources necessary to pursue these answers. This is one reason why the psalmist wrote, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). As many admonish us to trust the scientists or government officials, we need to be sure our trust is in the Lord first.
Life Is Fragile
Throughout the pandemic this year, many people have died from the virus and from complications related to it. Of course, death has always been a certainty. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet the constant news coverage of virus-related deaths and the accounts of sickness and death among those with whom we are personally acquainted has brought this into the forefront of our minds. As we already noticed, our life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Though one may live seventy or eighty years, once the end comes, whenever that is, our life is “soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).
Brethren Need One Another
Across the country, churches have shifted from regular assemblies to virtual “assemblies.” Even if churches have continued to meet in person, many members have not assembled due to health concerns or other reasons. The isolation that many have experienced during the pandemic has taken a toll on our society. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that American’s mental health ratings have dropped to a new low among every demographic except one -- those who attend religious services weekly. The Hebrew writer explained the importance of the assembly: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The assembly is not just about worshipping God and fulfilling our obligation to Him. It is also about encouraging one another. During difficult times, brethren need this encouragement from one another even more.
Our Hope Must Be in the Lord
No one knows if or when the situation with the pandemic will improve. No one knows if or when our economy or life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” For all we know, from our limited human perspective, conditions could get even worse in the future compared to how they are now. However, as Christians we have hope beyond this life. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep...so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). Jesus told His apostles, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can have the same courage. Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome by saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Despite all of the negative things that have happened this year – and what could happen next year and beyond – we have hope through Christ.
As we approach a new calendar year, let us remember what the Bible teaches on these points we have considered. Moving from one year to another does not change the truth of what God’s word has said. No matter what happened this year or what is in store for the next, let us keep our hope and trust in the Lord.
It probably happens most often in college. Your friend walks into the room and you immediately know something is different. There is a radiance that wasn’t there before. The eyes are brighter. The face is joyful. There’s a bounce in their step. The friend has fallen in love … and, like Andy Rooney once said, “When you’re in love, it shows.”
You really can’t hide love. It’s easy to see when a husband loves his wife. It’s easy to see when a grandma loves her grandchildren. It’s easy to see when a person loves their job. It’s easy to see when a fan truly loves the Cardinals. It’s easy to see when a family had a great vacation.
And it’s just as easy to see when someone truly loves the Lord. It shows. You just can’t hide true love. When you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Mark 12:30), it transforms you.
You will never hide your light behind dark shades, keeping it to yourself, but will expose it for the whole world to see (Matthew 5:15-16). Love shows.
You will never have to be shamed or begged to meet with God’s people for worship, study and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), but will long to be with the church whenever it gathers (Acts 2:42) – even when it is difficult or inconvenient. Love shows.
You will use your words to encourage and build, rather than to criticize and destroy – no matter what others are saying about you (Ephesians 4:29). Love shows.
You will treat your fellow Christians with greater care and concern than you treat yourself (Phil. 2:3-4). This will be evident to the whole world (John 13:35). Love shows.
You will not get stingy, resentful or angry when an opportunity comes from the Lord to share your financial blessings with others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Love shows.
You will not pass up opportunities to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter strangers, clothe the needy, or visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-46). Love shows (and saves!).
You will stay in constant communication with the Lord by prayer and study (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:17). Love shows.
You will not keep the saving message from the lost, but will share the gospel with all you can for as long as you can (Matthew 28:19-20). Love shows.
Other people can see how much you love the Lord. The Lord can see how much you love Him. The challenge is to be honest enough with yourself to look deeply in your own heart to see if love for the Lord is truly there. Remember, love shows.
Each year hundreds of thousands of people get ready for December 25th, which is accepted widely as Jesus’ birthday. Is it?
Barnes, a noted Presbyterian scholar, in his comments on the birth of Christ, states, “The climate was mild, and, to keep their flocks from straying, they spent the night with them. It is also a fact that the Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced. It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call Christmas. At that time, it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. But the exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men. it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to know the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which He regards as of no importance are concealed.” Albert Barnes, NOTES ON THE NEW TESTAMENT (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958), pp. 18, 19.
This Presbyterian scholar shows us that December 25th cannot be the birthday of our Lord. Where did this tradition originate that Dec.25th was the birthdate of Christ? According to Collier's Bible Dictionary, as well as the Catholic Dictionary, the Catholic Church admits they started it! Pagans were celebrating the birthday of Mithra, the son god, on December 25th. They replaced it as Jesus' birthday.
Many traditions around the birth of Jesus have sprung up which are not scriptural Those who so devoutly recognize December 25th as the birth of Christ seldom if ever check the New Testament to see what is fact or what may be fiction.
A CHRONOLOGY OF THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
1. Appearance of the angel to Zacharias, Luke 1: 5-25
2. Angel appears to Mary, Luke 1:26-38
3. Mary visits Elisabeth, Luke 1: 39-56
4. Birth of John the immerser, Luke 1:57-80
5. Angel appears to Joseph, Matthew l:18-25
6. The birth of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem, Luke 2:1-21
7. Presentation at the temple on the 8th day, Luke 2:22-38. Jerusalem is north of Bethlehem about 6-8 miles.
8. Visit of the wise men (never says 3), Matthew 2:1-12. Joseph, Mary and Jesus now in a house.
9. Flight into Egypt, Matthew 2:13-18
What did the first century church, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit, say and do about the birthday of Jesus Christ? There is not one shred of evidence that the church of Christ in the first century ever celebrated the birth of Christ. Since the Holy Spirit never authorized Christmas or December 25th as the birth of Christ, why go beyond the scriptures and establish something by tradition which God did not give?
Churches of Christ celebrate the birth of Christ, his death and resurrection each time we come together in worship. In the Lord's supper each Sunday we remember his death, 1 Corinthians 2:26. In recognizing his death, we give our testimony to his birth. We meet on the first day of the week to worship Jehovah through Jesus, thereby proclaiming that He has been resurrected. The Lord's day or Sunday is the day He was resurrected on! We set no special day aside to give honor to the birth of Christ. That would be tradition. We recognize His birth and life each day of our lives, as new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
The sad thing about this time called Christmas, is that many Christians, caught up in the commercialization of the hour will rob their contribution to Jesus to buy gifts for their family. Will a man rob God? I would like to buy gifts for a lot of people, not because I believe December 25th is Jesus' birthday, but because I want to show my love and appreciation to folks at the end of another year. However, many will never receive any material gift from me, since I refuse to rob my contribution to buy gifts. I will simply have to say "thank you everyone for making this a wonderful year for me and my family!"
I might mention one or two other things about this tradition called Christmas. The word CHRIST-MAS is a contraction of two words - Christ and Mass. It came from the Catholic celebration of a Mass for Christ.
Some complain about Christ being taken out of Christmas when they see the word Xmas. Actually, in Greek, Christ is spelled “Christós” (Χριστός). The Greek letter, “X.” is our "Ch.” So, Xmas is supposed to be an abbreviation of Christmas. However, we have already seen that Xmas or Christmas is nothing but a Catholic tradition rather than a Biblical teaching. Yes, Jesus was born. But not on December 25th. How can I celebrate Jesus' birth? Not by having a special day set aside, in which I give gifts to others and call it Jesus' birthday, but rather by living for Him who came to die for me! That is the greatest testimony that Jesus lives -- in me! –author unknown.