I am writing this piece in the first days of December and somehow it is like it always is. The month is well on its way before I could realize and relish this month of festivities.
I have written on the traditions of Christmas in previous Pebbles pieces. Here is a quote from number 31; something I would like to repeat.
The unspoken, universal announcement has been made. The lights are up, the decoration-plans executed. Retail and wholesale are ready for the harvest and their advertising campaigns spell out the demands of the season. Headaches over gifts and travel plans are painful and real and emphasize the heavy, hurting burden of the so-called time of joy and celebration. Tills and credit card machines deafen the very familiar music in the shopping centres all over the world.
I don’t have a plan or advice for the secular, empty and sometimes ridiculous celebration of Christmas. As a family we have distanced ourselves from Santa Claus and in stead placed the emphasis on God the Father and the great gift of His son. We do have a tree and other decorations to mark the celebrations, making sure that Jesus is central to everything we do. Gift giving was always limited and balanced – it took great effort to keep it creative and joyful. [Pebbles number 11]
This year, like so many in the past, the tree is up. To me it is the symbol of the stump of Jesse that blossomed and produced the Saviour of the world (Isaiah 11:1).
The Christmas cards will once again go out, proclaiming the events of so long ago. Many, many pageants worldwide will find their Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus, shepherds and angels among the ordinary and everyday to display the simple events of Bethlehem that forever changed the world, whether one believes or not. Within so many pagan societies the spirit of the season, even if it is for gain and greed, displayed in sparkling balls, lights and the giving of gifts, cannot be resisted. Somewhere there in spiritual darkness, a child will again ask… why? Our God reigns, says the prophet Isaiah. God will answer in His particular and spectacular way, in ways we cannot see.
But… we are not ignorant of the truth. We know why and we rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. We are the church of Jesus. Let us tune in to radio Christmas and hear the bells ringing over the kingdom harvest in the world where we celebrate.
What is on the menu this Christmas? I am sure we are thinking of something good to eat. Traditional fare or something simple – Christmas has developed an entire industry around the food and drink for this one day of the year.
While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples were going to find food. It was clear that all of them were hungry. When they came back they were worried about Jesus not eating. But He is not hungry anymore. He says: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
Then He talks about the harvest. Let us eat His words. (John 4:35-38)
The harvest is one of the core themes of the words of Jesus on earth. Here He sees the work of His father in Samaria. He sees the fruit and anointing on His words. He introduces the harvest as symbolic of God’s field, God as a sower was already a theme in the Old Testament. As an example is Hosea’s son’s name – Jizreel, which means: God scatters and sows. The harvest is symbolic of blessing on your labour.
The Jews divided the agricultural year in six parts of two months each for seedtime, winter, spring, harvest, summer and the season of extreme heat. Jesus knew that Sychar was in the midst of a region famous for its corn. Arable land is scarce in Palestine. It takes o only four months from sowing to reaping. He looked over Samaria and talked about the harvest that is ready. Again he contrasts the spiritual to the physical. The harvest in Samaria was ready on all levels.
In the ordinary way of things, men waited for the harvest. In the divine nature of things, the spiritual harvest of Samaria was sudden. The people were hungry for the Word, the Promise and the spiritual food.
Harvest is a time of joy. The sower and the harvester rejoice together. How beautiful the Psalmist declares the promise:
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalms 126:5-6)
Beneath the surface was the dream of a golden age for the Jews. The promised land was not a desert. It was a land “flowing with milk and honey”. The vineyards were to yield the harvest promised so long ago when the spies carried the bunch of grapes to big for one man to carry. The spies and their grapes are the icon of God’s overflowing abundance. The promised land became a desert because of sin and idol worship.
Jesus expanded His vision of the harvest.
The disciples would reap where they have not sown. Jesus’ word and work on the Cross would be the seed and the disciples would go and reap. We are still busy reaping the harvest.
The day will come when the disciples sow and others will reap. Christianity will be “scattered” and “sowed” and others would reap. Never be discouraged if you do not see the harvest. There will always be a harvest. Nothing is ever in vain, even when you do not see results.
Here we are in the month of December. We are reminded of opportunity. The harvest waits. We can never fail to reap the attraction of people to the Word of God.
We are reminded of the challenge for ministry over years with perseverance and commitment. We plant trees and watch them grow, but we cannot imagine how they will be when they are big, hundreds of years old.
John 4:39-42 are verses that express a core value of our ministry in the kingdom. It is one of the outstanding passages to illustrate that hearsay becomes revelation knowledge.
The Samaritans were introduced to the Truth by words that came to them from an unexpected source. Would they have chosen to hear of the Messiah through this woman? Probably not.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14,15)
Closer intimacy comes with growing knowledge. Once they were introduced they sought His company. They asked Him to stay. To experience Christ does not happen through somebody else. You have to invite Him in.
Discovery and surrender – what a wonderful Christmas combination.
John calls Jesus the Saviour of the world. He is the only one to do so. He is thinking about the Samaritans many years after this incident and is still in awe of the barriers broken down in such a short time.
The title comes from the Old Testament. He is the God of salvation. At the time John was writing, the Roman Emperor took this title for himself.
Jesus was not only a great example. If we have to live up to His example it could be frustrating and discouraging. He was an enabler. He was saviour. He rescued from evil and hopelessness. The Samaritan woman was the example of His saving power. She was labeled and despised. She probably agreed that a good life was beyond her hopes and dreams. Jesus broke the chains of her past and gave her a future. That is some saving power for you!
Pebble pals, do not shy away from the celebrations. It does not matter that the date is wrong and the onslaught of godlessness nauseates you. We are never victims. Use the opportunity. The feast is coming – whether you like the way it is done or not. Step into it, mindful and aware, and equip yourself with a word in season [Isaiah 50:4]. Bless everybody whose life you touch.
The harvest is ready. Let us feast with our feet shod in the loveliness of the Gospel of peace so that it is us who brings the good news. It is our party shoes for Christmas (Ephesians 6:15).
Put on your party shoes. Wear your white clothes, your garment of praise embroidered with your testimony of salvation. These are the decorations of our lives – truth and life, kindness and grace, insight and understanding, help in need and so much more of the fullness of the riches in Christ.
Bring them in. Just like the old hymn says:
Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Please listen with me to this old favourite Christmas song so brilliantly performed. Just think how many times this has been sung all over the world.