Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tree of Life

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Christmas Tree According to the University of Illinois Extension, "Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850. Until fairly recently, all Christmas trees came from the forest. In 2002, Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, New York, and Virginia were the top Christmas tree producing states. Oregon was the leading producer of Christmas trees—6.5 million in 2002."1

Christmas trees have long been associated with Christianity. One of the earliest writings about Christmas tree dates back to the year 722 in Germany, which tells of a Saint Boniface who has met some pagans who were about to sacrifice a child in worship to a huge oak tree. In wanting to prevent the sacrifice, Saint Boniface cut down the tree and was surprised to find a fir tree sprung up from its roots. On seeing the evergreen tree pointing up to the heaven and the child saved from pagan sacrifice, Saint Boniface took it as a sign of the Christian faith, a symbol of Christ's great sacrifice and His promise of eternal life.2

Today, many households celebrate Christmas with decorated Christmas trees. What these trees symbolize to different people will bear different meanings. Some may see the Christmas tree as a symbol representing the gifts of joy and gladness. Others may think of it as a preparation for the coming of Santa and his reindeers. Few however will understand or comprehend the price that was paid by One who sacrificed His all to be hung on a tree, the Cross, to save us all.

Let us all therefore know and understand the true meaning of the tree of the One who sacrificed His life to bring us Christmas joy, blessings and glad tidings. It is this tree, the Cross, that the curse of the Law was removed that everyone who receives Jesus as Lord and believes in Him, will not perish but have eternal life.

O how much it pains the One to see sinners lost, to love us so much as to give us His all, in coming down from heaven to save the earth and to redeem us all. Jesus alone is the One, and without Him, there is no Christmas, no blessing or salvation for the world, nor the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:13-14). He is the One who had come down from heaven to earth, the Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is Almighty God.

To him who overcomes, I [Jesus] will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7b)

Thank you Lord for redeeming us from the curse of the Law and for taking upon Yourself to be hung on a tree, the Cross, for our sakes, in order that we may receive Your salvation by grace, and the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit in us. Grant us Lord to see the Christmas tree as a symbol of Your love and of Your great sacrifice for us that we may understand and comprehend the price You have paid to give us eternal life.


All Scriptural references in this article are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

1 University of Illinois Extension,
Christmas Trees & More (Accessed December 20, 2008).
2 Christmas Tree Farm Network,
Traditions: Christmas Trees and Ornaments (Accessed December 20, 2008) & AllAboutGOD.com, Origin of the Christmas Tree (Accessed December 20, 2008).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Demystifying the Claus of Christmas

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NAS)

Demystifying the Claus of Christmas
"Tis the season to be jolly," so says the Christmas song, Deck the Halls. But what is in this season for us to be jolly? Is it the receiving of gifts, the festivities of Santa Claus coming to town, or is it the gathering of a mass of people together to celebrate the birth of Christ? Here's taking a look at the origins of Santa Claus to understand the reason for this Christmas season.

Santa Claus is known by many names, including Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, or just Santa. He is the figure in most of Western cultures described as the one bringing gifts on the eve of Christmas Day. Saint Nicholas is believed to be the youngest bishop in the history of the church who was well known for his benevolence in the 4th century as the one who cared for needy children and poor maidens. He was persecuted and imprisoned with many other Christians during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian and was released and honored when Constantine the Great established the Christian Church as the official religion.

Two hundred years after his death, Saint Nicholas became a great figure in Christian Legend, and Justinian, the last Roman emperor in the East, built a church in honor of Nicholas in Constantinople. A day was set aside to celebrate the feast of Nicholas in honor of his benevolence on December 6, naming it as Saint Nicholas Day. In certain countries, this festival has been assimilated to Christmas, partly because Saint Nicholas Day is very near to Christmas and partly because of some Protestant hostility toward the worship of the saints in some parts of the world. After the feast of Saint Nicholas had been moved forward and identified with Christmas, some of these countries felt the real patron of the day and Giver of gifts should be Christ Himself, hence the birth of Kris Kringle in popular German, meaning Christ Child. Among some of the German people in America, however, the legend of Santa Claus continued to survive, and Kris Kringle evolved into a combination of Santa Claus and the Christ Child.

In the 19th century, political cartoonist Thomas Nast of the United States popularized Santa Claus as the fat jolly man in red coat and trousers with white cuffs and collar, and a black leather belt with boots. This portrayal of Santa was reinforced through song, radio, television, and films. In the American version, Santa was said to be living in the far north or the North Pole. In the United Kingdom of Europe, however, Father Christmas was said to live in Lapland. Blending local folklore from Nordic countries, Saint Nicholas was also said to be bringing gifts with the Yule Goat, which gradually became the elves, the ones said to be responsible for making the toys of Santa.

This combination provides a summarized idea of how Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus from the earliest times, and the birth of the elves. The mystification of Santa flying through the sky with reindeers on a sleigh is therefore a concept not of Christian origins, but of stories belonging to countless fairy tales about elves, gnomes, spirits, and hobgoblins.

In understanding Christmas, we must return to the origins of Christmas celebration. The Bible states it clearly, that the reason for this season of Christmas is the birth of God the Word, Who became flesh and dwelt among us, the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Christmas is therefore about Christ-mass, the gathering of a mass of people to celebrate Christ's birth.

Teach us therefore O Lord not to celebrate Christmas as just a season to be jolly. Help us Lord to put our perspectives right in understanding the origins of Santa Claus and the true reason for the Christmas season. Stir our hearts Lord to be forever grateful to You for coming down to earth as a child to be born of a woman to save us all from sin and death, and to grow up as a Man that we may understand You better. Draw us near O God our Creator for we acknowledge You as our Lord and Savior. Thank You Lord for Christmas!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Home Coming

not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 NAS)

Christmas Home Coming If we are expecting someone we love coming home for Christmas, we will be filled with joy as we looked forward to the day drawing near. What a joy it will be when we meet our love ones face to face once again!

Home coming for Christmas is a great joy to many, yet to some, it may be a chore, a yearly routine of time wasted in meaningless discussion, or a gathering of memories of things past, of good and bad, happy and sad, pleasant and unpleasant all mingled together.

A family get together during Christmas is like a big family reunion where all of us who have been too busy with our lives and our own conjugal families come together to spend time with each other. Gathering together to meet each other during occasions such as this, however, is not what is most important, for physical presence alone, with minds absent or miles away is as good as being far away. Coming home for Christmas is therefore about giving attention to one another to encourage and to catch up with each other.

The Bible in Hebrews 10:25 teaches us not to forsake our own assembling together, but to encourage one another, all the more as we see the day drawing near. This scriptural verse has been used many times to encourage Christians to attend church services regularly. While there is no doubt about the importance of meeting together in church regularly to worship God as a congregation and to fellowship, the question remains however whether our minds are set on honoring Him when we are physically present in such services. Are we giving our heart, mind and soul to the Lord in worshipping Him, or are we miles away even while in the presence of the Lord?

As we return home for Christmas this year, may we remember what the word ‘Christmas’ truly means. Christmas is 'Christ mass', the gathering together of brothers, sisters, parents and children in Christ, much like a spiritual family reunion. Many of us have heard the inspirational words, "Christ is the Head of this house; the Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation" by an unknown author. In a sense, this is true. Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23), so Christ ought to be the Head of the house as well. He is the unseen Guest and God whom we worship, not just during meals at home, but also in our lives while we are awake or asleep, every moment and wherever we may be. God is the Listener to every of our conversation, at home, in church and everywhere else. He is always present to listen to us, but are we talking the right things when we gather together? Are our conversations what God wants to hear?

Let us all therefore not complain about the chores or the difficulty of travel when we go home this Christmas. Home is where our hearts should be, whether it is our own homes or the homes of our parents or siblings. We should therefore above all remember what is most important in such gatherings is our attention, our presence beyond the physical, just as God is always present with us beyond the physical. We should also encourage one another to express our love one for another.

Dear Lord, help us not to have our minds wandering away while we gather together for Christmas at home and in church. Help us understand how You feel when we come together to meet up with You and with members of our family with minds far away. Teach us to love You and to love one another, just as You love us so much that You died on the Cross for us even while we were far away from You. Forgive us Lord for neglecting our assembling together while we busy ourselves with our own lives. Bring us closer to You Lord as we purpose once again to be faithful in returning home for Christ mass to worship You every Lord’s Day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Gifts of Blessings

After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 NAS)

Christmas Gifts It all began with the Magi who brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh to the Child in worship to the newborn King of the Jews. Since then, giving Christmas gifts has become a common practice to people who celebrate the season. In the 4th century, Saint Nicholas who was said to be a wealthy and generous man, rekindled the spirit of giving during Christmas when he gave heartily to children, especially those who were deprived and in need. This act of generosity by Saint Nicholas consequently became a tradition of exchanging gifts, leading to the myth of Santa Claus.

Many of us look forward to receiving gifts during Christmas every year. This is because gifts are such a blessing, and they are always free. We need not pay a cent for it, and we know when we receive a gift, it means someone cares for us. We give gifts to express our care for others too, to show them our love and friendship. The difference, however, between a giver and a receiver of Christmas gifts is the price. Giving Christmas gifts is not free. Christmas gifts are paid with a price.

When our Lord came down from heaven to earth as a Child, He presented Himself as a gift, paid for with His all to be with us and to lead us to the way of salvation. Jesus gave up His glory to be born into a humble home, and on the day He was born, He was destined to die a cruel death. He came to earth only for one reason—to pay the price for our sins and to give us the free gift of eternal life and salvation. Such is the price of the true Christmas gift, where "greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). By grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ is the ultimate Christmas gift sent by God to reconcile our relationship with Him, to set us free from the bonds of slavery.

This Christmas, as we look forward to receiving gifts, let us not forget to give good gifts generously, especially to the poor and needy. Let us in giving, not expect anything in return as in exchanging gifts, but rather give willingly and cheerfully, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:17). Let us with grateful hearts thank God for His ultimate Christmas gift of eternal life in Christ.

Remind us O Lord the price You paid to save us all in giving of Yourself and everything else to be born a Child on earth and to die on the Cross for us. Teach us Lord to give good gifts of love to help the poor and the needy. Help us be willing Lord to give without expectation of return, for we know You desire a cheerful giver.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Lights Shining Bright

"THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." (Matthew 4:16 NAS)

Christmas Lights According to HowStuffWorks.com, back in about 30 or 40 years ago, people used to decorate their houses and trees with lights using small 120-volt incandescent bulbs. Each of these bulbs was a 5- or 10-watt bulb like the bulb we find in a night light today. If half of all traditional Christmas bulbs were replaced with LED bulbs, it could yield savings of $17 billion a year in energy bills. Incandescent bulbs are therefore no longer common these days because they consume too much power and generate too much heat. With global warming now an area of great concern, it is no wonder alternatives such as LED bulbs are becoming very popular, as they consume less energy and emit less heat.

Long before the electric bulbs were invented and before lightings became a part of the decoration for the festivities during Christmas, there was another light that shone high above the sky to welcome Christmas and to guide the shepherds and wise men to Christ our Lord, the Emmanuel. It was the light of the star—the Christmas star. In the song 'Christmas Star' by John Williams, a stanza from the lyrics states:


Star light, shine bright
See me through the dark night
Light mine, half way;
Guide me home for Christmas Day

Star light shining bright, what a sight it must have been to see the star of ancient times that guided the way to the Child who is Christ our King! The people who were sitting in darkness certainly saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned (Matthew 4:16). Jesus is the Light of the world, and if we walk in the Light as He Himself is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin (John 1:7). We are therefore not of night, nor of darkness, but the sons of lights and sons of day (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

Christmas lights, in this sense, are all about the Light that shines through us. Jesus is the Light, our Lord and our God who dwells in us. He alone is above all lights and the reason for Christmas. He brightens every heart and enables every soul to see us through the dark. He is the One who drowns the darkness of all hallows evening and guides us home for Christmas Day.

O what a joy to celebrate the birth of our King with power not of lights from electric bulbs, but from the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. This Christmas, let us as lights of the world be the shining star of today that guides mankind to our Lord the King (Matthew 5:14). With our whole body full of light, let us dispel all the dark areas in our lives that we may like the lamp which illumines with its rays also be illumined, not only within ourselves but also to the world (Luke 11:36). Just as the light from the star guides the shepherds and the wise men, let us as lights also be God's chosen saints to guide and shine in the darkness to bring forth dawn to the land and shadow of death (Matthew 4:16).

Dear Lord, help us remember that as lights of the world, we are to shine and guide people to You. Use us therefore Lord, especially during this Christmas season, to lead people to the full understanding of the reason for Your birth on earth. Empower us Lord with lights that shine brightly even in the darkest night, to illuminate not only our surroundings, but also to the people around us. Enable us Lord to bring forth light like a lamp with its rays to reach out to all who are lost, that they may see the Light and be guided home for Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Christmas: Who is Carol?

Christmas Carol A team of missionaries visited an unreached people group in a foreign land. After singing several Christmas carols to the native people in their language, a conversation arose between one of the missionaries and a native.

"Who is Carol? What did she do that we should celebrate this holiday?" asked the puzzled unreached person in native language.

"Carol is not a person. Carol is the song of joy and praise we sing during Christmas," answered the missionary.

"O, I see, I thought you're referring to someone who has done something great that we are celebrating this special holiday."

"You are right! We are singing carols because Someone did something great, and He is continuing to do something great every day."

"Huh? You mean you are singing carols because someone did something? What great thing did he do?"

"Well, He came from heaven to earth to show the way, mildly for a short time laid His glory by, born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth."

"Second birth? How can these things be? How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"

"Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, except and unless he believes in the Son," said the missionary. "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

"Who is this Son you are talking about?"

"He is Christ, by highest heaven adored. Christ, the everlasting Lord; Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a virgin's womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the Incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell; Jesus, our Emmanuel."

"I see, you are talking about Christ the Incarnate Deity! But what did He do that man is celebrating this holiday?"

"He came from heaven to earth to show the way and from the earth to the cross, our debts He paid. From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky, the Lord's name deserves to be lifted high, for whoever believes in Him, shall never die, but have eternal life!"

"O, I see, why didn't you tell me earlier? Now I know Christmas is about Christ and not about Carol! Help me then to receive Christ, 'coz I wanna receive eternal life!"

Hark! The herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies, with the angelic host proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem. Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail, the Son of Righteousness, light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.

NOTE: This article contains words from the Christmas carol 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' by Charles Wesley, the song 'Lord I live Your Name on High' by Donnie McClurkin, and the Gospel of John chapter 3 (NAS).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gospel Winter Wonderland



Gospel Winter Wonderland
Is Christmas all about a winter wonderland where peace and calm is celebrated? Watch this slideshow to find out more.

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