Magnifying the Meaning of Christmas

Childhood memories of Christmas

Throughout my youth, Christmas was generally a happy time for me and my family.  While my family experienced normal family difficulties, overall we were extremely blessed and had much to be thankful for.  I have many wonderful memories of Christmas time as a child and am so thankful for all of the blessings I received.

Although, as a child I didn’t fully understand the true purpose for celebrating Christmas.  Christmas was all about receiving gifts as far as I was concerned.  It’s not as if my parents didn’t teach me the value of giving, but for some reason I believed that Christmas was all about me.

I remember one specific Christmas when my grandpa and grandma gave me a really cool toy.  The only problem was that I already had the exact same toy.  Upon opening the generous gift, I told my grandparents that I already had a Lion-O ThunderCat action figure, but thanked them anyways.  Yes, I was young and unknowing.  Yes, it is probably fairly common for a child to respond that way.  However, if I am to be completely honest, I would most likely still think that way if the same thing happened to me this Christmas.

I can’t overstate how this story is not an all encapsulating description of what is wrong with Christmas.  All it is, is a memory that reminds me what Christmas used to mean to me.  My focus on gift getting as a child doesn’t make me a horrible person, but it does remind me of my self centered nature.  Even to this day, I naturally care more about myself than others.  It is an extremely difficult challenge to love my neighbor as myself, as I am called (Matthew 22:39).

Christmas is all about Christ

Christmas is a wonderful time of year and it is a great time to demonstrate compassion and kindness through gift giving.  Yes, it truly is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  That cannot be lost on us during this Christmas season.  However, giving and receiving gifts should not be our primary focus.  Our primary focus should be on the greatest gift giver of all time.  God gives us life and most importantly, He offers eternal life through His son, Jesus Christ.  We should remember why He came to earth so long ago.

Jesus came to earth as a baby in a manger.  He healed the sick and afflicted.  He performed miracles beyond our understanding.  He repeatedly demonstrated peace to mankind.  He came to the earth to save sinners.  He came to testify to the truth.  He lived a sinless life.  He was completely obedient to His father, even to the point of dying on the cross.

One thing that we shouldn’t overlook this Christmas is that He is with us.  Above all, Christmas should remind us that Jesus is with us.  “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us“).” Matthew 1:22-23

It isn’t until you put a single snowflake under a microscope that you see its true beauty.  However, the majesty of Jesus can be clearly seen through the lens of the Word of God and through His creation.  You just have to be willing to look.  May He be with you this Christmas.

Respecting Authority

Respect authority

Romans 13:1 declares that God institutes governing authorities.  God cares enough about government that He established it.  We know that there are different types of governing authorities depending on the type of government that has been established in the nation that we live in.  There are all types of different governments in our world.  There are Monarchies, Oligarchies, Democracies, Republics, etc.  Therefore, governing authorities can be people or it can be the rule of law.

God calls us to submit to our governing authorities, while simultaneously understanding that we only do so as long as we are not disobeying God in the process (Acts 5:29).  We can and should be respectful to authority in almost all possible scenarios.  Our calling to love others and to be peaceful should be considered during any encounter with a government official, police officer, member of the military, etc.  It is safe to say that our world would be a better place if more men, women and children practiced being more respectful to those in authority.

The authorities are called to good

Frequently we hear stories about how citizens show a lack of respect for the authorities and many times that is certainly true.  However, there are also times when government officials, police officers and members of the military, abuse their authority.  There are times when they are not looking out for the good of the citizen.  Yet that is exactly what they are called to.  God’s word declares that the authority is a minister of God to citizens for good.

“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.  Do you want to have no fear of authority?  Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.  But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Romans 13: 3-4

The definition of good in this context is extremely important.  Good in this context does not mean that the authority defines what is good.  Good has already been defined by God.  The standard for good in this context is the opposite of evil, which means it is a very high and godly standard.  Those in authority often times do not live up to that standard and that should not be so easily accepted.

The authorities are called to oppose evil

The bible teaches that the authority is a minister of God to bring wrath on those who practice evil (Romans 13:4).  That means that those in authority are to oppose anyone who practices evil, including others in positions of authority.  God’s standard to oppose and expose evil also applies to citizens too (Ephesians 5:11).  The truth is we all have been called by God to oppose evil.

Maybe those in authority and the citizens of our nation should promote respect for others in their own lives first, instead of pointing the finger at someone else first.  There is a time to encourage others to be respectful as well, but let’s be as kind as we can about it.  We have a sin issue that affects all of us, not just others that we may have a negative perception of.

Those placed in authority are called to do good and to execute justice on those who do evil things.  And citizens are called to submit to that authority, except when it conflicts with our obedience to Christ.  Respect for authority is a two way street and that is the only way that it works well for everyone.  If you are in a position of authority, then you should be looking for more ways to do things that God calls good.  If you are a citizen, then you should be looking for more ways to respect those in authority.  And we should not be afraid to hold each other accountable.