Christmas Greetings

ChristmasWishes2017

 

Dear Prayer Partner in Christ,
Christmas Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Let us remember that He was born on this earth to unite us to God the Father and to Himself in a relationship and that ‘‘He is not ashamed to call us as His brethren’’ (Heb 2:11). We have come to the end of the year and it is time for us to evaluate our lives and prepare for the forthcoming year, just as businesses audit their profits and losses and prepare themselves. This being the Christmas season, it is paramount that we make our celebrations meaningful and purposeful in such a way as to proclaim Jesus as much as possible to those who do not know Him and bring them into a relationship with God.

As we grapple with the prevailing socio-political scenarios in India, we may wonder how one can possibly proclaim or celebrate the birth of Jesus. Over the years, we have witnessed the cancer of vandalism, vigilantism, hatred and persecution spreading, perpetrated by vested interests, aligned to certain narrow ideologies, and at times, overtly or covertly supported by politicians for their own narrow ends. Their mindless actions breed intolerance and divisions in the society leading to lack of peace and breaking of unity and relationships. In such dire situations we must remember the truth that God sent His dear Son to be born on earth to restore relationships. ‘‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift’’ (2 Cor 9:15).

How can we deal with this important subject of restoring relationships? It begins with reconciliation. Remember what the Lord said, ‘‘Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’’ (Mat 5:23-24). How many of us remember this exhortation?

It is typical for Christians, during this season, to send gifts to one another, and to send offerings to different ministries. They are like those who responded to Nehemiah’s call: “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord” (Neh 8:10). It certainly is wonderful to remember ministries during this season, but how much more that we listen to the Lord and observe His command regarding relationships?

We have a great testimony right in the first page of the New Testament. Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph and as per the prevailing custom she was considered his wife (Mat 1:20). Joseph’s dream of a blissful marriage was shattered by the terrible news that his engaged bride was pregnant with a child. Imagine the heartbreak that Joseph felt! As per the Law, he knew that Mary should be stoned to death (Deut 22: 23, 24). He also knew that Judah, one of his forefathers, had contemplated to burn to death his widowed daughter-in-law, when she was found to be pregnant with a child (Gen 38:24). Joseph could have chosen either of these outcomes for Mary. But being a righteous man he didn’t glory in the letter of the Law and lived according to the spirit of the Law. Therefore, unwilling to subject Mary to any shame, he decided to end his dilemma by choosing to divorce Mary secretly.

Joseph’s plans were thwarted by a heavenly herald who brought him the divine discourse of the incarnation of God’s Son. God fearing man that he was, he readily submitted to the heavenly call and married Mary (Mat 1:24), and cared for the pregnant wife giving up his own bodily passions and desires until the child was born (Mat 1:25). The Angel reminded Joseph that, according to the scripture, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Gen 49:10), the Saviour must come from the lineage of David in whose line he was. The Angel said to Joseph, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Mat 1:21). In obedience Joseph was willing to sacrifice, for the Saviour to be revealed to the World. Are we willing to obey the commandments that we receive from the pulpit or from the written Word of God?

When Joseph heard the angel, he was troubled; he had doubts. Unfortunately, this demon of doubt is destroying numerous relationships, especially marriages. Wife doubts the husband; husband the wife, mother-in-law the daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law the mother-in-law, and so on it goes. The number of divorces due to doubt is simply staggering. Due to doubts how many friendships are broken, how many relationships are ruined, and how many lives are shattered? When issues cannot be resolved by dialogue, earnest people should stand in the gap by laying hold of the Lord in His presence. The same applies to relationship issues in a family, churches, or society.

Perhaps it is because of these relationship issues in families that the Holy Spirit has given us this wonderful story of Joseph, right in the first page of the New Testament. In the sight of God relationships are holy, the marriage covenant is holy. ‘‘For I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel’’ (Mal 2:15). Divorce is against the Spirit of God (Mal 2:16, 1 Cor 6:17, 18). When the real need is to be restored in the spirit of reconciliation, believers resort to resolve issues through the courts of law. How many families are ruined by seeking to use the police and advocates who mix lies and twist truth?. During this Christmas, let us with utmost urgency and holy priority pray and lay seize of the heavenly throne, for all such despairing people. And where possible, let us get involved in resolving problems, reconciling differences and restoring relationships. May the Lord help us to redeem broken families.

The purpose of the birth of John the Baptist, prior to that of Jesus was “to restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mal 4:6). Same message was conveyed by the Angel Gabriel to Zechariah (Lk 1:17) and was illustrated by our Lord Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son. Further it was said about John that ‘‘he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God’’ (Lk 1:15, 16). Sadly, many, who claim to be filled with Holy Spirit today, work overtime to bring people down. Some of them have broken relations in families by claiming that evil spell or black magic has been done by their relatives. It is a shameful testimony and a painful reality of our day. How many children are there today who are not in speaking terms with their parents, and how many parents are there today who destroy their children’s marriages by interference and hatred towards either the son-in-law or the daughter-in-law?

Let the people of God arise this Christmas season and be filled with the Holy Spirit like John the Baptist. Let there be a renewed zeal and fervent spirit of holy commitment to build the ruins of family relationships, so that the church is prepared to receive their King at His second coming. The work that John the Baptist did prior to the first coming of Jesus needs to be done today, once again, before the second coming of Jesus who said, ‘‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’’ (Mat 5:9).

Sin not only separates man from God but also man from man. We are living at such testing times in our country, where we witness our rulers who should rule righteously, and the institutions of democracy who should uphold values, are increasingly indulging, in separating man from man, community from community, language from language, culture from culture, and society from society for their own diabolical ends. We may call it ‘hate campaign’ or by some other name but we must recognize how desperately our nation needs Jesus today who only unites. Only the Gospel by its redeeming message can restore broken relationships. May the Lord help us to be filled with the Holy Spirit who ‘‘will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment,’’ to carry the compassion of Jesus and to show the love of the Father in action. This is why GEMS emphasizes so much on the importance of missionary work, because ‘‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ’’ (2 Cor 5:19, 20).

Let us not be deterred by how hard the situation appears to be and how small in comparison we may be, in terms of our numerical, economic, social, or any other strength. Remember, prior to the birth of Jesus, the skies seemed to be hard like brass, but at His birth the rejoicing voice of the heavenly host broke the brassy skies with, ‘‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’’ (Lk 2:14). And Bethlehem where He was born was a small, forgotten village, despite being King David’s birth place (Mic 5:2). Since the palace and the temple were in Jerusalem, it became famous while Bethlehem continued to remain forgotten, until the birth of Jesus. No wonder, even the wise men, though led by the star, ended up in Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem!

Forgotten village means forgotten relationships. But the birth of Jesus changed all that. How sad it is when people forget their roots and relationships as they multiply, prosper and move to bigger and better places? May this Christmas encourage each one of us to renew forgotten relationships. As the star led the wise men to Bethlehem, may the Spirit lead us to our roots and relationships. Let us proclaim that ‘today, in the city of David, Christ the saviour is born’ and may all the forgotten rejoice (Lk 2:18-20). When the wise men arrived in Bethlehem, they came into a house (Mat 2:11). When the child was born, there was no room in the inn, but now there was a home to receive the wise men! How wonderful! As the relationships renewed, the situation changed from being castaway place of a manger to a home where they could be greeted and where they could worship the King.

Keeping the subject of relationships in perspective, and with a burden in our hearts, we at GEMS are working to meet with 10 lakh (1 million) people over this Christmas season. To these innovative methods are employed in various mission fields. GEMS endeavour is to engage with every believer to encourage and enable them to endure in evangelization by engraving the evangel in the hearts of the lost. As a result we expect a bountiful harvest. Let us therefore not merely be over occupied with new dresses, food and other festivities, but pray and seek the Lord. And may the Lord help us to share the good news with those who have never heard the gospel in our area of influence.

Before concluding, let me exhort you on a few practical aspects. Please do not borrow to celebrate, to make merry and get into bondage. Rather commit yourself to make your joy known to others by putting aside any celebration that comes without a sacrifice. May there be at least one act of sacrifice during this season that reflects the greatest sacrifice of the cross. That is how we prove that we are made a new creation in Christ. As far as possible, avoid bursting of fire crackers and other sparklers. Not only does your cash becomes ash, you also actively contribute to the death of people due to air pollution. Remember there were as many as 2.5 lakh (2.5 million) deaths in India, in 2015, owing to air pollution alone. Also be restrained in spending on decoration of churches and streets during this season, being mindful of the plight of millions of unemployed youngsters to whom the sight of these extravagances will only bring more despair. We are called to walk in wisdom and understanding (Deut 4:6, 7).

Wish you a very blessed and meaningful Christmas!

In His Vineyard
Bro. D. Augustine Jebakumar