Calven: What Christmas Means to Me

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by Calven Celliers

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” (Matthew 1: 22 & 23NIV)

When you think of the Christmas season, what comes to mind? What’s going on around us can easily distract us from seeking intimacy with Immanuel. Christmas is, however, a time when we remember that God sent Jesus to dwell among us and rescue those who were lost, orphaned, and without hope. Jesus was “God with skin on” – a man who experienced temptation, persecution, pain, and grief, but also joy. He understands us, loves us, and promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

But having said that, I can only imagine how Jesus’ disciples and followers might have possibly questioned this reality when they experienced very real feelings of abandonment, huddled behind locked doors following His death. They feared what might happen next. Would they be arrested and executed, too? Despite Jesus’ efforts in the final days of His earthly ministry to help make them understand the reality of His abiding presence always, I reckon they were still unprepared and stunned by His absence, left with feelings of grief and uncertainty.

2020 has been a long, hard year. Perhaps there have been moments when all of us have felt abandoned and overwhelmed when challenged with health issues, job losses, financial crises, and relationship problems. It’s at times like that, that it’s perfectly human to wonder why God doesn’t immediately swoop in and fix everything. Feelings of loss and abandonment seem especially keen over the holiday period. This Festive Season it may feel for many like they are living on the fringes, merely going through the motions. And so, this Christmas, more than any other, may we never forget that God is still with us. He hasn’t disappeared.

Jesus comforts us in the Gospel of John saying,

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans — I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.” (John 14: 16 – 19NLT

What was true of the disciples and those early followers is also true of you and me. Without the Holy Spirit to strengthen us, encourage us, lead us, and guide us, we too will not make it. And here’s a blessed truth worth celebrating this Christmas, the Holy Spirit is not fickle in His commitment to you! He is not just with you when you feel spiritual. He is not just with you when you’re at your best or when you’re on your knees. He abides in you. He comes to be with you forever. The Holy Spirit lives within us and promises to comfort and counsel us. You can count on Him!

In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul put it like this,

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4: 4 – 7NIV)

And that’s what Christmas means to me!

As we wrap up the NHCF Blog for 2020, I wish you all a truly blessed Festive Season. Whilst we may not know what 2021 holds, we do know Who holds 2021, and He will be with us every step of the way. He will never abandon us!

 

God bless,

Calven

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Luke: What Christmas Means to Me

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by Luke Kincaid

I don’t know about you but there definitely seems to be a tangible feeling you get around Christmas time. I hadn’t yet felt it this year until I was sitting and chatting to my mom yesterday and said to her, “I think I’ve finally got it, that Christmas feeling!” This feeling is difficult to define exactly. There’s an element of joyfulness to it as well as excitement. But as I have thought through it in preparation for writing today’s blog I believe that the main factor of this Christmas feeling is peace, a peace which we can only receive from the Prince of Peace Himself:

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6)

In this Messianic prophecy we see that Jesus is referred to as the Prince of Peace. And while the peace we have received from Jesus as His disciples is always available to us I believe that Christmas is a special time for us to be reminded of it. This is because before coming to know Jesus we were enemies of God and unable to save ourselves from our sin and Christmas is the reminder that our Savior was born, the One who could make peace with God on our behalf:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1).

What Christmas means to me is the fact that right now, in this moment, those who have repented and believed in Jesus, are at peace with God. We can rest in the truth that we have been justified, our sin no longer has any power over us, and that God loves us and accepts us. And none of this would have been possible without the birth of our amazing Savior Jesus who provides this all for us.

 

Much love,

Luke

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Graham: What Christmas Means to Me

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by Graham Mol

Last night we revisited a local residence that has been transformed into a Christmas Light House. We had discovered this local gem last week, and now were showing it to some of Candice’s family. At this house amidst all the lights and decorations, there is a patio table filled with ornaments depicting various “Christmassy” scenes (think Winter Wonderland). Some of these emitting festive tunes. This time, however, when I went closer to the table there was a beautiful sound that eclipsed the other tunes. It was the sound of a choir gracefully singing Silent Night, the voices blending in deep harmonies. The song was coming from one of the ornaments and as I gazed at the table I was sure of which one it was…

This elegant replica of a Church steeple with an angel bathed in sparkling light, was indeed the source of the angelic music. The effect of the design and the music was quite simply movingly beautiful, far outshining all the other festive scenes.

In this moment of awe and peace I also felt a tinge of sadness that I wouldn’t be able to listen a choir sing like this live this year. I also realised that this is one of the things I find most meaningful about Christmas, that we get to sing along with the angels.

Luke 2:8-14

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

Since the very night of Christ’s birth there has been singing to celebrate. If you think about it, Christmas without carols really doesn’t feel like Christmas at all. It’s truly remarkable that some of the well-beloved carols that we sing each year were written hundreds of years ago! Yet each year, we all join in (even those who aren’t Christians) to sing the familiar and often deeply theological Christmas hymns.

For me these carols provide a moment to step back from all the fun and busyness of this time of year and focus on the wondrous miracle of Christ’s birth. We get to join in with the angels in singing praise as we reflect on the glory, peace and joy of Christ’s arrival on earth. This is a message that eclipses all others during this time of year and it is “What Christmas means to me.”

 

God Bless

Graham

 

 

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Caryl: What Christmas Means to Me

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by Caryl Moll

In a few days, Christmas week and all its fanfare will descend upon us all. I anticipate that for some folk it will be preceded by the usual shopping hysteria – endless gifting, decorations, redundant “Christmas Carols” and extremely tired feet. Not to mention the accompanying mental fatigue. We shouldn’t be surprised to find ‘exhaustion’ in its wake.

In my younger days, I was confused by this “Humbug” of Christmas – the brimming stores, the incurred debt and endless parties? It was hard to see Jesus in all of it. It felt totally farcical. I imagine that some people can be confused like I was. Whether we enjoy the fanfare or not is not the issue. The real question is ‘What does Christmas really mean to us?” Is it about Christ or not?

I am aware that many, many people battle with loneliness and depression during the Christmas season. I am one of them.  Even though I am enormously blessed to have my family around, I miss my childhood family, the old farm and friends who have gone by the wayside. There are so many cherished memories. It’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing these to continually replay in our minds and let ourselves fall into the darkness

In addition, I am personally not entirely comfortable with receiving gifts – for me, gifts are just a reminder that we don’t need all this ‘stuff’ and that we can do with so much less. After all, Jesus’s gift should be enough, shouldn’t it?

Please don’t be too alarmed. My reticence isn’t without hope. What Christmas means to me personally is embraced in two little songs. Let me explain…

Some years ago, when my children were in primary school, I was confronted by the real meaning of Christmas. The realisation hit me so hard at the time that I breathed it in and allowed it to really filter into my soul. Yes, it happened during the primary school’s annual ‘Carols by candlelight’ performance where I had volunteered to play the piano for the choir.

In this post, I’d like to give a shout-out to our own, dear Sandy Mol who was the music teacher at the time. What an amazing lady! She has a heart for Christmas all year round and imparts this to her pupils. At the end of each year, Sandy would put on a spectacular performance with the kids. It was a truly inspirational effort as us parents were allowed to listen to our children’s message. But when I was asked to help out with playing the piano, it became something entirely different. I was a nervous wreck. I familiarised myself with the songs and fervently committed myself to the task – practising for hours on end in the hope of stilling my nerves. It was the only way I knew how so that I would be able to help her out.

There were two songs, in particular, which I really fell in love with… so much so that I still play them every year on my own Clavinova at home. At the time, they brought my focus back to the real meaning of Christmas and settled my nerves. I absolutely love them and my family get to hear them endlessly. It’s the simplicity of their message that is so poignant. Their melodies sing in my heart as their words find permanent place.

Please allow me to share these two songs and some of their words…

  1. The first one is: Christmas isn’t Christmas (by Jimmy and Carol Owens)

The words go like this: “Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart’

… Somewhere, deep inside you is where Christmas really starts. So give you heart to Jesus; you’ll discover when you do that it’s Christmas, really Christmas …for you!

Isn’t this so true? Christmas can’t ever be “Christmas” unless there is a change in our hearts.  Think about it…

  1. The second song is “Christmas is a time for LOVE” (by Ernie Rettino and Debby Kerner.)  This song encourages us all to put everything else aside and concentrate on what the world really needs – LOVE!

Yes, LOVE encourages us to be patient, kind, compassionate, self-controlled and generous. Love is a concept that encourages the same reconciliation that we receive from our Lord Jesus Christ. He reconciled us to himself with his gift on the cross. It was a gift of the ultimate love. We really need His help in gifting this same LOVE to our world. Yes, we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. It doesn’t have to be big – we just have to practice the ultimate gift – LOVE!

Wishing you, dear reader, a ‘heart-felt’ Christmas filled with LOVE. Let’s make a difference in our struggling world…

 

With love, in Christ

Caryl

 

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