This issue of the Gazette will cover the events of Christmas, so on behalf of Linda and myself I would like to begin by thanking you all for your love, help and fellowship through another year and also to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a blessed New Year.
The busyness has already begun. It was in early November that I picked up the pile of papers that had been placed by the back door ready for the re-cycling bin. I put 2 pieces to one side to look at later, because they were mini-catalogues called ‘Presents for Him’. I thought they might give me ideas to answer the question “What do you want for Christmas, dad?” It was a vain hope and eventually they took their place in the re-cycling box. The buying of Christmas presents occupies the minds of many throughout the year. Those with an eye for a bargain often buy presents in the ‘January sales’ ready for next Christmas. There are times that I wish I possessed such an orderly mind, but more often than not for me it is a last minute activity. I am so grateful for a wife who carries the major part of present buying for the wider family and friends.
It is good to use Christmas as a time for giving presents, because it was the Lord Jesus Christ who said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35) In fact Christmas is all about God’s greatest gift to the world, the gift of His Son – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) It is good and right to think of others at this time of year with a desire to bless them with a suitable gift, but we must always aim at living within our means rather than saddling ourselves with a great debt that will burden ourselves and others for the year(s) ahead.
Christmas however is not simply about presents, but more particularly it is about ‘presence’, the presence of our God in this world. Just before Jesus was born, as Joseph struggled with the news that his betrothed wife was pregnant even though they had not consummated their marriage, God sent a messenger (an angel in a dream) to explain to Joseph what was happening. He was told that ‘All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Mt. 1:22, 23).
Jesus was not simply a present from God; He was in fact the presence of God living amongst humanity. He did that in human form for approximately 33 years, but He set in place a relationship which continues to this day. Shortly after Jesus returned to heaven, he with God the Father sent the Holy Spirit who has lived in every believer without exception since the Day of Pentecost. If we as Christians say that we do not have the Holy Spirit living within us then we are not Christians; ‘… Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.’ (Rom 8:9)
Let us thank God that Jesus as Immanuel is a very real and precious experience of God that many of us know. Over this Christmas period let us do all that we can to enjoy His presence in a fuller and richer way. We enjoy His presence as we cooperate with His purposes and walk in faith and obedience. We display His presence when it is obvious to others that our lives have been affected by an ongoing relationship Him that is maintained by listening to His voice through the Bible and enjoying the peace that comes from living in the way that He has designed for us to live.
In the same way it is obvious to others that we know nothing of His presence as we allow our lives to be driven by the pressures and circumstances of life. Before Joseph had seen the vision with its message from God He was greatly troubled and tried to arrange his own life; but after waking from the dream, ‘he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife’ (Mt. 1:24).
It is my prayer this Christmas that each of us will know the presence of God in a new and living way as we all, like Joseph, are willing to do all that the Lord commands.
Yours because of His Presence,
Bernard Lewis December 2014