Hide and seek was one of those childhood games we used to play outside. When the one who was “it” had finished counting to 100 he would have to shout out: “ready or not, here I come”. We are hard up against a new year. 2018 is right on our doorstep with all of its challenges and heartaches, with all of its opportunities and obstacles. It will come whether we are ready or not. What attitudes should we as God’s people have to be better prepared for this new year?
We need to approach the new year with a sense of anticipation. God is always looking to further His work in the world and by His grace wants to use us. He has big plans for us if we will be like Isaiah who simply said: “here am I, send me” Isa. 6:8. Another attitude that will help us properly approach 2018 is having a rugged steadfastness. Paul challenges us in 1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…”. Things may get tough for us this year. It may involve physical affliction or emotional turmoil or family struggles. We need to be ready to stand strong in our love for the Lord and our faithful walk with Him no matter what may happen. I believe we need to have another attitude in place at the edge of the new year. We should be looking toward the skies with a ready expectation. 2018 may be the year when our Lord fulfills His promise of returning to the earth to receive those who believe in Him. This could be the year when we experience the promise found in 1 Thess. 4:16,17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord”.
January 1 is upon us. Perhaps this is the year we will hear our Lord say: “ready or not, here I come”.
One of the traditions that my wife and I enjoy during the Christmas season happens on Christmas Eve. After everything is settled down we get our pile of Christmas cards that we have put in a basket under our tree. One by one we look at the beautiful designs on the front of the card. We methodically take in the picturesque scenes of churches, snow, Christmas trees and of course the wonder of the nativity. Then we read the greetings, poems and messages on the inside of the card. However our favorite part of our annual tradition is to read the personal greetings from our friends and loved ones.
God sent us a wonderful Christmas card that glorious night in Bethlehem. On the cover we see a beautiful picture of angels in the sky with an assembly of shepherds in awestruck wonder below. What a masterpiece of heavenly artwork God composed in painting that scene. However the best part of God’s Christmas card was the message that those shepherds received. The first line of God’s Christmas card read: good tidings of great joy. The birth of God’s only Son washes away all of the bad news in the world and promises everyone who hears can be in the possession of great joy. The second line read: a Savior is born. God knows that whatever else we may need as we travel this road of life our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins. We needed someone to die for us and save us. The angels sang the third line of the greeting: glory to God in the highest. Christmas is a time for us to honor and praise and glorify God for giving us the greatest gift in human history, Jesus. Finally we read the last line of God’s Christmas card: peace on earth goodwill to men. With war, violence, and hatred everywhere we certainly need peace on earth. This peace will reign when the Prince of Peace returns. But we can enjoy peace in our own heart when we receive God’s Son.
My wife and I look forward to reading our Christmas cards on Christmas Eve. Why not take some time this year to carefully and thoughtfully contemplate God’s Christmas card to you?
We do it every year. Gift giving is such a part of our Christmas tradition. We go through great lengths and great expense to purchase just the right gift for our loved one. Ladies venture into the unknown territory of the sporting goods department for their spouse. Husbands navigate the scary environment of ladies cologne or hand bags. We put bicycles together at midnight, hide presents at the neighbor’s house and check the internet for the hottest toys. All of this because we want to give to those we love.
Did you know that we are most like God when we are giving? The Bible tells us in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Another verse tells us that we should be grateful for God’s gift of His Son. 2Cor. 9:15 says: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift”! At Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift that history ever recorded. The gift was from God the Father and it is addressed to the whole world. This gift was motivated by pure love. God loved you and me so much that He gave the best He had, His only Son. The gift of God’s Son did not come wrapped in beautiful packaging with golden ribbons. He came to us nailed to a hideous cross that was covered with blood. As horrific as the sacrificial death of God’s Son was it was the only thing that could take care of man’s greatest problem: our sin. God is giving us a gift that is too wonderful for words.
Each year we place the gifts that we have purchase and wrapped for those we love under the tree. God’s Son comes to us not under a tree but hanging on the tree. In order for us to receive Him we must unwrap this precious gift by faith. Receiving, believing and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior will be the greatest gift you have ever received.
Most of the news we hear on the TV, radio, and internet is generally in the category of bad news. We are saturated with bad news in every area of life. Yet there was a night long ago that a group of shepherds gathered together on a Judean hillside received the best news ever. Luke 2 records the event in verses 8-11: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.
They received good news that would bring them great joy. The good news of course is that Jesus, the Son of God was born. He is the Savior that came to save people from their sins. Have you thought of the significance of that great joy? When we receive Christ as our Savior that experience brings us great joy. The first great joy is that our sins are forgiven when we trust Christ. We no longer have to carry the heavy weight of our wrongdoings. We are washed clean and forgiven of every sin. What great joy! Another great joy is that we are promised a home in heaven. Those who have come into God’s family by faith will one day enter the Father’s House as Jesus promised in John 14. We also experience the great joy of the continual presence of Jesus. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. We have the great joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the precious inspired scriptures, the sweet fellowship in the family of God and the knowledge that God has a purpose for our life. What great joy God has given to His people.
Do you have that joy? During this Christmas season don’t settle for “merry” embrace the great joy.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation