CHRISTMAS NEWS: HOPE FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS

According to “The Hill” News on December 25, 2018, the Iraqi government issued this announcement: “The Iraqi Cabinet has made Christmas Day, Dec. 25, a national holiday across its entire country.”

I believe this news brings hope for Christians in Iraq, who may now celebrate CHRISTmas openly. Because of the tragic history of persecution in Iraq by the Islamic State, I confess this announcement caught me by surprise. I consider it a huge blessing and pray for Iraqi Christians to be encouraged and filled with hope. I also pray that enemies of Christ will come to know the CHRIST of CHRISTmas personally and experience His hope, love, and peace.

A government tweet stated Monday this CHRISTmas greeting: ‘Happy Christmas to our Christian citizens, all Iraqis and to all who are celebrating around the world,’ and added Tuesday, ‘We extend our warmest wishes to Christians in Iraq and around the world for a very happy and peaceful Christmas.”

I am thankful that CHRISTmas hope still continues to be found on our planet!

CHRISTMAS STORY: HOPE TO GLORIFY AND PRAISE GOD

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night, And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 

But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ 

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ 

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ 

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen just as had been told them.” (Luke 2:1-20)

We can learn something from the shepherds who were priviliged to witness the first CHRISTmas. They had the proper response to meeting Jesus. How did they respond? They glorified and praised God!

We have a choice in our response to God also. We may accept His CHRISTmas gift wrapped in love, or we may reject His free gift of salvation paid for at great sacrifice to His Son. Each of us must choose our own response.

He loved us enough to give the Gift. He loves us enough to give us our way no matter our choice. Tragically one alternative is rejection that will result in regret and hopelessness for an eternity. The better choice is to embrace His grace and forgiveness and then experience hope to glorify and praise God, Who deserves it!

Have a blessed CHRISTmas!

SILENT NIGHT: HOPE ON A HOLY NIGHT

If you are familiar with traditional CHRISTmas songs, then you’ve probably heard one of the best-known and most beloved hymns, “Silent Night, Holy Night.” The words were written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, and the music was composed by Franz Gruber on December 24, 1818. It was first performed that CHRISTmas Eve night in Oberndorf, Austria, at a worship service exactly two hundred years ago.

Silent Night, Holy Night! All is calm, All is bright! Round yon virgin, Mother and Child. Holy infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.

Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly host sing alleluia. Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Silent Night, Holy Night. Son of God, Love’s pure light, Radiant beams from Thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus Lord at Thy birth, Jesus Lord at Thy birth!

Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light; With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King! Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!”(Mohr)

I don’t know if the first Christmas night was a “silent night” as Mohr imagined, but I do believe it was a holy night filled with great hope! A young virgin mother who experienced a miracle in a Son’s unique birth surely would have been hopeful for more miracles in His life.

A man devoted to the young mother and devoted to the mission God had chosen for him was hopeful that with God’s help he could become an earthly father to this Child born of Holy God Himself.

Lowly shepherds heard an announcement by a heavenly host of angels and had enough hope to hurriedly leave their flocks to witness the miracle baby that was proclaimed along with peace and joy to the world and even to them personally!

I imagine that one holy night was overflowing with hope! All these first CHRISTmas participants experienced hope, because each experienced Jesus, the baby in the manger, who had stepped down from heaven to become the awaited Messiah. Before the world was created God’s plan for our salvation was set in motion, and hope was always included in His plan.

Wherever there is Jesus Christ, there is always hope! A Savior with no hope to offer the world would be sadly lacking.

Are you looking for hope? Jesus is near to be found, and He has an never-ending portion of hope for you personally.

“Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.'” (Luke 2:13, 14)

MEANING OF CHRISTMAS: GOD WITH US BRINGS HOPE

  1. As the Christian holy day nears, will you spend time pondering the true meaning of CHRISTmas?

In the book of Matthew in the New Testament we are told that the name of God’s gift to the world in the form of a baby was to be called Immanuel.

Immanuel means “God with us.” This name brings hope to our lost world. Surely there is no more hopeful reality than God Who loves the world enough to come be with us. He came to redeem us despite our falling short of His glory. He came to provide God’s salvation so we can be with Him throughout Eternity!

What could bring more hope than God with us? Yet too many people choose to ignore the awesome reality of the first CHRISTmas. Does it make sense to celebrate a birthday without inviting the Guest of Honor?

A “Scrooge” closes his (or her) eyes to the meaning of CHRISTmas. This results in being stressed and depressed and having too little peace in one’s own heart and no good will toward the rest of humanity.

In the busyness of life you may not give a thought to the One Who is CHRISTmas personified… God with us. Jesus Christ should be included in CHRISTmas of course. Even more than a passing thought, He should be our primary focus!

If you don’t know Jesus and want to… He is found in God’s Holy Bible, in God’s natural creation, in loving hearts of true believers. He can be found in your own personal life when you seek Him with your whole heart.

He came… He brings hope that makes our lives worth living… He is God with us!

 

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’”  (Matthew 1:23 nasb)

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13 nasb)

“Emmanuel, Emmanuel,
His name is called Emmanuel.
God with us, revealed in us,
His name is called Emmanuel.
We love Him so, we love Him so,
His name is called Emmanuel.” (Bob McGee)

REASON FOR SEASON: HOPE, JOY, AND REAL REASON

This is the month that many will celebrate Christmas, yet some seem oblivious to the Reason for the Season. Christmas is (or is meant to be) a celebration of the birth of a baby like no other. He is God’s gift to the world, given because He loves us so much. His plan is for humanity to believe in His only begotten Son, so we may live with Him forever. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the real reason for the season of joy.

I prefer to write it as CHRISTmas to honor Christ. There is no CHRISTmas without Christ. Of course, many people (including some believers) celebrate without giving a passing thought to Jesus Christ the Messiah when He should be our primary focus.

Some forget it’s a holy day and spend it merely as a holiday as they shop for expensive yet unappreciated gifts, indulge in excessive candy, party nonstop, drink heavily, decorate to impress, focus on fun traditions that include Santa, Rudolf, the Grinch, elves, and more.

I don’t want to rain on your CHRISTmas parade, but I suggest an evaluation to make sure we keep priorities in proper order. Don’t miss the most important reason for “Joy to the World” ever!

Having priorities out of order causes one to feel stressed and depressed, have little peace in one’s heart, and unlikely to express good will toward humanity.

The reality of God’s CHRISTmas gift and His love gives hope and results in peace and joy when we accept His free gift. There’s no better way to celebrate CHRISTmas than truly knowing hope, joy, and the real Reason for the Season.

  “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and Peace on earth! Goodwill toward men!'” (Luke 2:11-14)   “Joy to the World! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing!” (George Fredrick Handel)  

DATE OF INFAMY: HOPE TO TRIUMPH SO HELP US GOD

Seventy-seven years ago today was “a date which will live in infamy” as far as American history is concerned.  To remember this day and the Greatest Generation, especially the US servicemen and -women and their sacrifices during WWII, I will share the speech by President Franklin Roosevelt on December 8, 1941, to the Congress of the United States.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island. This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounding determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

(President Roosevelt)

By the way, I am an American patriot who is proud of my father, a WWII soldier who served his country to achieve peace and preserve freedom. My intent in today’s blog is not to indict Japanese citizens, who are close allies today thankfully.

May we all learn from history and refrain from repeating decisions that jeopardize peaceful relations with allies. May we still be resolved that “righteous might will win through to absolute victory” when peace without war isn’t possible.

It seems appropriate to borrow words from Winston Churchill, Britain’s great leader and our strong ally during WWII. May we “never, never, never, never give up” …hope to triumph with God’s help.

“For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” Deuteronomy 20:4

POEM: HOPE IN HIS GRACE FOREVER

Hope may bring joyful attitudes and life-changing direction. Hopelessness may lead to wrong choices and destructive actions. Sometimes the difference is a matter of choice.

I think the following poem offers hope, because it shows the huge transformation possible when a life is redeemed by Jesus Christ.

IN HIS GRACE FOREVER

“Hope sometimes is lacking

In those without backing

Of someone to give them a hand.

And then one with no hope

May turn on to dope

And blinded, hear demons demand:

‘Just destroy your life;

Sow discord and strife.

Who cares if the gutter you’ll land?

Go to kill… go to steal;

Reap trouble that’s real;

Let hatred sift through you like sand.’

But no pit is so deep

That God’s love can’t keep

A life in His mighty strong hand.

When I came to rope’s end,

I found such a Friend,

Who holds me in His nail-scarred hand.

Now I trust and obey

Christ Jesus, the Way;

In His Grace forever I’ll stand.

In His Grace forever I’ll stand!”

(Judy Gillum Foy)

God bless you… and may your heart be open to the life-changing power and hope to be found in Jesus Christ. Salvation is freely offered to all, and the price has already been paid. The best deal in the universe!

“He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed Someone to wash my sins away, And now I sing a brand new song, ‘Amazing Grace‘ all day long. Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.” ( anonymous)

“Saved by His grace divine! Saved to new life sublime! Life now is sweet, and my joy is complete for I’m saved, saved, saved!” (Jack Scholfield )

“For by Grace you have been saved through faith. It is the gift of God not as a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)