Tag Archives: Christmas carols

Our Daily Bread — Lasting Peace

 

Ephesians 2:13-19

He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation. —Ephesians 2:14

On Christmas Eve 1914, during the First World War, the guns fell silent along a 30-mile stretch of the Western Front. Soldiers peered cautiously over the tops of trenches while a few emerged to repair their positions and bury the dead. As darkness fell, some German troops set out lanterns and sang Christmas carols. Men on the British side applauded and shouted greetings.

The next day, German, French, and British troops met in no man’s land to shake hands, share food, and exchange gifts. It was a brief respite from war that soon ended when the artillery and machine guns roared to life again. But no one who experienced “The Christmas Truce,” as it became known, would ever forget how it felt and how it fueled their longing for lasting peace.

In Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah we read, “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). By His death on the cross, Jesus removed the “no man’s land” between us and God. “For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14).

In Jesus we can find lasting peace with God and harmony with each other. This is the life-changing message of Christmas! —David McCasland

Hark! The herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled!” —Wesley

Only in Christ can true peace be realized.

Bible in a year: Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 15

Insight

Unity is a common theme in the New Testament writings of Paul. Jesus has brought us peace with God and therefore we should also be at peace with each other. In Ephesians 2, Paul talks about peace between Jew and Gentile. Despite the centuries-old separation of the two groups, God in Christ Jesus has “broken down the middle wall of separation” (v.14). In the temple there was a wall beyond which Gentiles could not pass; it formed the boundary of “the court of the Gentiles.” However, Jesus has removed the barriers between God and us and between us and others. Now we all are “members of the household of God” (v.19).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The House of Christmas

 

Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimate, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

Because of other happenings in the house (not the least of which was that one daughter was taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child), everything was in confusion. All of our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases as time to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, “This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.”

But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quiet moments.

At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.

My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory. That year God taught me a lesson. A home can reflect and distribute the love of Christ.

The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and making a home among us. G.K. Chesterton captures the wonder of such a thought:

A child in a foul stable,

Where the beasts feed and foam;

Only where he was homeless

Are you and I at home:

We have hands that fashion and heads that know,

But our hearts we lost—how long ago!

In a place no chart nor ship can show

Under the sky’s dome.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To the end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.(1)

Jesus’s earthly address changes our own. Christ comes this Advent, and shows us what it means to live.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5.

Greg Laurie – The Man Who Tried to Stop Christmas

greglaurie

A real war has been raging over Christmas. Many retailers have instructed their employees to no longer say, “Merry Christmas,” but to say, “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” instead. We see this trend being carried through to the public schools and other places. Some school districts in Florida and New Jersey have prohibited the singing of Christmas carols altogether. And in Texas of all places, a school confiscated one child’s gifts for classmates, which were pencils with the inscription, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” A Wisconsin elementary school actually changed the lyrics for “Silent Night” to a secularized version, “Cold in the Night.”

Attempts to create a politically correct version of Christmas are not only happening in the US, but abroad as well. Cardiff Cathedral, an Anglican Church in Wales, has made the hymn, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” more gender-friendly by renaming it, “God Rest You Merry Persons.” (That just doesn’t have the same sound.) Some are even suggesting they take it a step further by substituting the words “higher power” for God in the lyrics. Now we are losing the whole point of the song.

Efforts to stop Christmas have been going on for a very long time. In fact, someone tried to stop the first Christmas, and he wasn’t a fictional character like the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge. He is known as Herod the Great. Herod was born into a politically well-connected family, and at the age of 25, he was named the governor of Galilee—a very high-ranking position for such a young man. The Romans were hoping that Herod would somehow be able to control the Jews who lived in that area. And in 40 B.C., the Roman Senate gave Herod the title of “king of the Jews.” This was a title the Jews especially hated, because Herod was not a religious man. He was not a devout man. He had no regard for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or for the Jewish people. But he loved that title because it spoke of power.

And that was Herod’s problem. He was addicted to power. Power has been described as the ultimate human obsession, and that certainly was the case with King Herod. His craftiness knew no barriers, because he had a morbid distrust of anyone who would try to take his reign. He had his spies fan out and constantly look for any potential threats to his throne. Over the years, he killed many people whom he perceived as a threat, including his brother-in-law, mother-in-law, two of his own sons and even his wife. The ancient historian Josephus described Herod as barbaric. Another writer described him as the malevolent maniac.

By the time Jesus was born, Herod’s life was coming to an end. The so-called king of the Jews was slowly dying of a disease, and he was rapidly losing his mind. He had successfully fought off all attempts to take his power away when mysterious visitors from the east suddenly came blowing into town. They were strange men with strange questions. And right off the bat, they pushed Herod’s button when they said they were looking for the one who was born the king of the Jews. That was Herod’s title, but he certainly wasn’t born the king of the Jews. Yet that is who the wise men were looking for.

So Herod called in the members of the local clergy to assist him, scribes who had spent their lives in the study of Scripture. Immediately they pointed to the prophecy of Micah that predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. But Herod wasn’t thinking about prophetic significance; he was thinking about the threat to his throne. He secretly called in the wise men and asked them to tell him exactly when the star appeared. Then he told them to search for the child and when they had found him, to report back so that he could go and worship also. But the Bible tells us that after the wise men found Jesus and worshipped him, God warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. So the wise men took a different way home. Herod was so angry these wise men had not reported back to him that he freaked out. All the worst instincts of a lifetime of cruelty came to the surface, and he ordered the cold-blooded murder of all males in Bethlehem and its districts under the age of two.

We find an interesting contrast of kings in this story. Both possessed immense power, but how they chose to use it revealed the hearts of two radically different men. Herod was a tyrant; Jesus was a servant. One was consumed with self-interest; the other was focused on pleasing God and serving others. One manipulated, slandered, deceived and coerced, while the other healed, touched, taught and loved. Herod tried to stop Christmas, and more to the point, he tried to stop Christ. But even with all of his wealth and power and influence, he came to ruin.

Like Herod, there are people today who oppose Christmas. They don’t want us to say, “Merry Christmas.” They don’t want us to say that Jesus is the reason for the season. They don’t want us to sing our Christmas carols. They don’t want us to post the Ten Commandments in our classrooms or have prayers in public places. They don’t want any freedom of expression in our culture. They want to impose their values—or lack of values—on us. There are people today who oppose everything about God or about Jesus Christ. And that is what Herod did. He was a man who fought against God and ended up destroying himself.

Of course, we can complain about people who are leaving Christ out of Christmas, but let’s not do that ourselves. We can forget to keep Christ in Christmas with all of our busyness at this time of year. The wise men had it right. They wanted to worship Jesus. And that is quite dramatic when you consider these men were like royalty themselves, yet willing to bow before the baby king. Their gifts were an expression of worship from the overflow of adoring and grateful hearts. And right worship is always—and must be—the only basis for right giving and right service. Christmas is all about Christ. It is not about Christmas presents; it is about His Christmas presence in our lives. Don’t forget Jesus at Christmas.