This Christmas, celebrate the gift, and be the gift
Ted Ancelet, National Director of Spiritual Empowerment
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and 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 on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:8-14 (ESV)
Good News of Great Joy
The colored lights, familiar music, and memorable smells of the season remind us that no matter what 2020 has thrown at us, God is still good, and he is still in our corner. That is not to minimize the struggle, hardship, and heartbreak the past year has brought. The trials of this year have impacted all of us in multiple ways and have left many of us feeling uneasy about the future. This is why knowing and living out the truths of God’s Word is more important now than ever. As Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Our strength and peace come from knowing that no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, God is always present. God’s presence is the heart of the Christmas story: “Immanuel … God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23).
That said, I think that often we embrace only half of the Christmas story. Let me explain.
We rightly celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus. The coming of Christ restores our relationship with God and secures our eternity. Now we can know and be known by our Creator. While this is of course “good news,” there’s more. Jesus is not only our Savior; he is also King of Kings (Revelation 19:16). As King he is ushering in a kingdom. A kingdom of light destined to overpower the current kingdom of darkness. A kingdom we are citizens of and ambassadors for. A kingdom that brings healing, joy, and peace. This is the full story of Christmas. In Jesus, we are given an eternity to look forward to and a mission to live for.
Blessed in Order to Be a Blessing
Celebrating Christmas reminds us of something that life’s struggles tend to make us forget: We are no longer identified by our guilt and shame. Scripture tells us that we are forgiven, beloved, adopted children of the King. And as adopted children, we are part of our Father’s mission in our world. Our adoption seals our future in hope and fills our present with purpose. Fear is replaced with faith and meaninglessness with significance.
In the book of Romans, Paul exhorts, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). The root of the word Paul uses for “evil” means “to spoil, to break in pieces.” It doesn’t mean overt wickedness; it points to the brokenness we see all around us as a result of sin. Paul reminds us that while things are not as they should be, we are not powerless victims that must simply endure. In fact, we are part of God’s answer to that brokenness. The word Paul uses for “good” means “good acts.” We live out our new identity in Christ by stepping into what has been spoiled by sin, making things better with simple acts of love. In this new Kingdom, we are not just spectators. We are participants!
So, as we celebrate Advent and Christmas this year, I invite you not only to celebrate the gift we’ve been given but to be that gift to others. Through the birth of Christ, God overcame the evil of this world and has empowered us to express that victory to others through acts of love and kindness.
Throughout the year, we’ve shared various ways Bethany seeks to share the love and compassion of Christ with vulnerable children, families, refugees, and immigrants, both in the U.S. and around the globe. We believe that in the midst of these dark times we have an opportunity to shine brightly and make a significant difference in the lives of those we serve. If you would like to know more about how we can partner in this effort, please CLICK HERE. If you find yourself in a place of need, please CLICK HERE to get help.
Once again, Merry Christmas. May God’s goodness and peace cover you and your family this holiday season.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Thankfulness and peace are intertwined. Peace stirs thankfulness and thankfulness ushers in peace. This Christmas season, set aside time daily to list five things you are thankful for. This may be harder than you expect. This time of year is filled with busyness and can be emotionally difficult. Start small. Items on your list can be as simple as a warm cup of coffee on a cold morning. Don’t overthink it; sometimes the simple things have the largest impact. Allow thankfulness to stir peace in your soul, and then rest in that peace.
Father, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. As we celebrate the holiday season, we thank you for the love, grace, and peace we find in him. Help us to keep him at the center of this season and our lives. We also thank you for not only saving us but sending us. We invite you to stir our hearts for what stirs yours. Show us how to share the love and compassion we’ve experienced in Christ with those in our lives. In your son’s precious name, Amen.