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Thomas: Know the true meaning of Christmas, ‘and try to keep it all the year’

Life seemed shrouded in darkness and gloom. The heavy foot of the Romans rested square on the necks of God’s people. Injustice and oppression ruled the day. The Jewish religion had codified into a massive collection of rules and regulations that no one could keep. And God had not spoken to His people for over 400 years. Hearts that truly longed for God and His Messiah, cried in despair.

Then it started. Gentle tremors of angelic visitations promising that God was doing something wonderful and new. Each day overflowed with anticipation as miraculous conceptions took place. Wonder filled the nights as God’s purposes began to unfold.

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From a human perspective, the logistics looked poorly planned: A pregnant unwed teen in a town of ill repute; a long, tedious journey to register in a far-off city; no place to stay in Bethlehem.

Suddenly the tremors erupted in splendid glory. Heavenly hosts split the star-filled sky with choruses of praise to God! The holy child was born, Immanuel, “God with us.” Despite the odds, opposition, and the darkness of human hearts, Jesus — the promised Messiah, had come. Not as a glorious king clothed in splendor in a chariot of heavenly fire, but in a stable, as an infant wrapped in frail humanity.

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Life on planet Earth would be forever changed as the dawn of redemption had come just as God had planned, “in the fullness of time.”

In the uncertainty and despair of our world today, we pause to celebrate this amazing coming of Jesus called Christmas. God becoming human is an event unparalleled in human history as the God of the universe emptied Himself of His heavenly glory and became one of us. Christmas is when we ponder anew the impact of Jesus who, by giving His life for us on a cross, opened the gates of heaven to all who put their trust in Him and who is forever “the way, the truth and the life.”

Knowing the true meaning of Christmas in important. It’s easy to miss in the hustle of the “holiday season” with all its sales, super sales, and super-super sales. God didn’t have that in mind for us. Instead, God desires that we humbly kneel before His Son and worship Him as the shepherds did that night. Several months later, the magi followed suit by bowing, kneeling and worshiping Jesus with precious gifts.

But as important as knowing the true meaning of Christmas is, it’s even more important that we live in the spirit of Christmas — not just on the 25th of December — but every day.

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Daily we need to bow before our King in worship and give Him the costliest gift we have to give — our lives. Daily we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to the needy, the broken, and the disenfranchised. Daily we need to extend the loving grace of God and offer people the best news ever: “That God so loved the world that He gave His only Son and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!”

This Christmas, and for all the Christmases yet to come, may each of us live with the heartfelt pledge of Ebenezer Scrooge following his awakening and conversion, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!”

The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at pastor@herefordumc.org.

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