December 2019

VIEW FROM THE PULPIT               December 2019

The Greatest Gift  Sitting in the dentist chair at our local hospital the dentist, while waiting for the anaesthetic to take effect, asked the question “are you ready for Christmas?”  my reply to him was “No!”.  I explained to him that we have a large family and that our movements around the various houses over the Christmas period is determined by our family.  The giving of gifts at Christmas can be very time consuming in obtaining the perfect gift for those we love.  Shopping malls are crowded with potential customers seeking out the bargains and the most useful and attractive items available.  Little children can be more interested in the wrapping and box of a gift than the actual gift inside, but it is not long before they realise that there is a gift and the wrapping is dispensed with in haste.  Some gifts, if they are toys, perhaps do not last very long when bits of plastic break off and render the toy useless.  Often the best gifts that children receive last for years and some, like the cuddly teddy bear can continue through to adulthood.  A practice that has developed in our homes is to place Christmas gifts under the Christmas tree to be opened on Christmas morning.  Children are warned not to open the packages but cannot resist feeling the gifts and trying to determine what the package holds for them. 

The Christmas tree itself is a relatively new historical concept that had its beginnings in Northern Germany at the time of Martin Luther.  The symbolism of the evergreen tree, often a fir or spruce is to convey eternal life, albeit in reality some trees shed their needles quickly indicating that the tree is in the process of dying.  Decorating the tree was initially done by attaching red apples and candles to the branches.  Later the apples were replaced by red baubles and the candles by fairy lights.  Also the tradition of placing a candle in an orange began (known as Christingle, a word of German origin meaning “Christ Child”) celebrating Jesus Christ as the “Light of the World”.   Often an angel or a white star would be placed at the top of the tree, the first to indicate Gabriel’s message to Mary and the second speaking of the guiding star of Bethlehem.  These have been corrupted to a fairy and a red star.  A variety of evergreen trees are grown and sold annually, about 8 million in the UK alone.  About a third of the trees used are ‘real trees’ whilst the other two thirds are ‘artificial trees’.   Christian symbolism was associated in the introduction of the evergreen tree in the days of Queen Victoria and featured in the well-to-do family homes.  After the two world wars some trees were gifted from one Country to another in recognition of their military assistance against the adversaries.  To this day the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square, London is given by the city of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-1945 and a tree has been given annually since 1947.  Conversely, the Christmas Tree has been corrupted and used in a bad practice in relation to Satan worship.

The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to the greatest gift, John ch 3 v 16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” From the heart of God, Christ came into the world to save sinners from the guilt and penalty of their sin (which is Hell) to the bliss and joy of Heaven.  Five times in the New Testament we read of Christ giving himself.

Galations ch 1 v 4 “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father”, the following chapter ch 2 v 20 Paul says “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” Paul embraces everyone in 1 Timothy ch 2 v 5 & 6 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” Not all believe but those who do comprise the Church and in Ephesians ch 5 v 25 “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”Titus ch 2 v 14 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”.  In each of these references we see clearly that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself upon the cross to redeem sinners and give them eternal life.

Paul tells us in Romans ch 6 v 23 of what we deserve by nature and what we can have by grace, he says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. When Jesus died at Calvary, he bore our sins in his own body on the tree.  This tree referred to is not the evergreen relating to his birth, this tree is the symbol of the curse of mans sin, for the scripture says in Galatians ch 3 v 13 “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”.  The gift of eternal life is the greatest, most precious gift that anyone could freely receive.  Christ said in John ch 10 v 27 & 28 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” ensuring eternal security for all who receive Christ as their Saviour.

Dear reader as I wrap up this special Christmas gift can I put your name upon it, and will you receive it as from the Lord himself?

 

God bless,     

 

Stan Burditt