11. Go on, open up – it is all yours!

Boom met geskenke

Over most of the world the Christmas trees are up and on. Here in Canada December are marked by long dark hours and every lit tree makes a difference. In all the shops everything around the Feast of Light becomes more beautiful every year. It is with delight that I enjoy the wide variety of talent of a creative world around Christmas, decorating and beautifying to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World. That creativity is God in us; no doubt in my heart about that, although I know not everybody acknowledges that, since not everyone has faith. [2 Thessalonians 3:2].

I have long ago decided to shake off my irritation over the over-commercialization of Christmas and enjoy the cooperation of the most unexpected participants. I marvel at the size and splendour of Christmas trees in so-called pagan societies and countries where Christians are far in the minority. All over the world this day is celebrated with light and a focus on gift-giving and charity. It is, after all, inevitable. The world must hear the Story. In the history of all mankind there is only one man who ever said the words: I am the Light of the world. For every child asking why the trees are lit and gifts exchanged, the reason is given. Giant nativity scenes in many centres tie all the bells, balls and tinsel back to that first Christmas in the manger in Bethlehem. The message goes out over anointed and un-anointed lips. Romans 10:18:

But I ask, Have they not heard? Indeed they have; for the Scripture says: Their voice [that of nature bearing God’s message] has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the far bounds of the world.

We might underestimate the work of God and the power of that invisible Kingdom that Jesus came to establish on earth when He and John the Baptist started their ministry with the very same words:

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. [Matthew 3:2 and 4:17] Could we ever get our minds around the full magnificence of our Father, the God of the universe? If I could stretch my brainpower to the fullest, I would not be able to comprehend the extent of the kingdom of God.

For many Christians the true meaning of Christmas is lost in the baggage of the secular interpretation of gifts and trees and everything shiny. Some even react radical and do not celebrate anymore. Others debate about the elements of the feast and try to eliminate anything “un-Christian”. The Christmas tree is often under suspicion and is thrown out of many homes. We as a family also try to stay true to the message and choose our decorations carefully.

Eugene Peterson, the translator of The Message Bible, has written beautiful Christmas poems and by it, relieved me of some stress about Christmas elements. I gladly reclaimed amongst other things, the cards and the tree and delight in their deeper meaning. He tells of the wonder of Christmas cards, which illustrate the Message in art and poetry being hand-delivered by postal services all over the world.

For us, the Christmas tree in our home is the symbol of everlasting life and victory over death. Isaiah 11:1:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [David’s father];

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

That is the message of the tree. The branch that bears fruit is Jesus. Death is overcome. Life triumphed. The root, with no sign of life has blossomed and bore fruit. It is now the time for a joyful Christmas chant! What would it be? Allow me to suggest:

VIVIT – Latin for He lives.

Careful thought on Christmas decorations will give you the opportunity to minister to your family and friends, but first of all to the children. It is a joyful celebration, a time of peace and harmony and our Christian homes reflect the truth and deeper meaning of this time. Could we submit our words and home atmosphere to the Word of God? Let us allow the Holy Spirit to enable us to have real Spirit-filled conversations in our homes. This is our first and foremost “decorations”. James 3:17:

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous, considerate, gentle. It is willing to yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned; free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity.

Just when you might think that this is a tall order, change your attitude from achieving the standard to receiving the ability to conform to the Word from the Holy Spirit in you. 1 Corinthians 2:4:

And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive, enticing and plausible words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the Holy Spirit and power,

[a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them].

We are being equipped by the Holy Spirit to choose our words wisely and clothe ourselves with the joy and peace of the season. It is not the effort that we put in that results in spiritual victory, rather the degree of surrendering our life and inner being to the working of the Spirit. This is our prayer for Christmas:

Holy Spirit, I am positioning myself to receive Your indwelling and direction. Please cleanse my heart of any sin and be welcome in my thoughts and deeds.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my firm, impenetrable Rock and my Redeemer. [Psalm 19:14 Ampl]

Prayer is faith in action. Andrew Murray, a respected theologian of the previous century, declares in his book: With Christ in the School of Prayer (strongly recommended reading*) that unanswered prayer does not exist. The adjective unanswered cannot be used with the noun prayer. God hears ALL prayer and if we think He does not answer, it is only a reflection of our own “spiritual feebleness”. When I read this, I confessed that I might have thought God didn’t hear and asked Him to forgive me for my ignorance about His true character. He is my Father and He is actively involved in my life. He will not play deaf to any request.

I would like to invite you to a Christmas night. Close your eyes and imagine yourself finding your way to the spectacular Christmas tree in your half dark home. With a little light, so as not to wake the others, you search for your name on the beautifully wrapped packages, just to find your name on ALL of them. You fall down on your knees and stare in wonder at the shapes and sizes of the wrapped glory before you. Just surrender to the magnificence and start opening – you have a lifetime – and you have received the perfect gift for every situation that might arise. Could we take a peep together? Romans 8:32:

He did not spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also grant us EVERYTHING? {my emphasis}

In Luke 12:32 Jesus says:

Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.

It is God’s delight to provide. He is never reluctant in the provision we need, rather abundant.

Hear the wonderful explanation of this Scripture in The Message:

What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.

Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.

Are you comfortably seated in His Presence, tuned in for the joy to come. Jesus is still speaking: Luke 11:13:

If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!

The Holy Spirit is the key to receiving the gifts. He will prepare you and guide you and equip you. He is the promise of the Father to Jesus. Jesus knew how utterly abandoned His followers would have felt after His departure. The Holy Sprit was God-with-us manifested in the receivers of the promise. Last words are alway important, to be absorbed and remembered. Jesus said: Acts 1:8:

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…

Your next step is exactly the same as those overwhelmed people on the day of Pentecost when they asked Peter: Acts 2:37-9:

Now when they heard this they were stung (cut) to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,

Brethren, what shall we do?

And Peter answered them, Repent, change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

For the promise of the Holy Spirit is to and for you and your children, and to and for all that are far away, even to and for as many as the Lord our God invites and bids to come to Himself.

God promises to direct even your relationship with Him. To please Him is to know Him better, to open you heart to His love and surrender to Him in prayer.

2 Peter 1:3:

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.

My favourite gift is wrapped in the healing wings of the Sun of Righteousness [Malachi 4:2]. This wonderful promise is only a glimpse of what is to come. God promises more than you could ever imagine or dream up in you wildest thoughts. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9,10 in The Message with me:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—

What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

Thank you Lord for you indescribable gifts to us, giving us Your glory for our life. We thank you for Christmas and rejoice in You marvelous light.

Be blessed!

*www.path2prayer.com

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