“What Does Christmas Mean To You” by Rev. Roger Boguski, 2005.
“Christmas! What does that word mean to you? What thoughts, visions and things come to your mind when you hear the word, Christmas? Dinner, family, guests, presents, decorations, credit cards! Does your heart smile with anticipation or frown from expectations? Let me ease the firght of the night: There is joy in Christmas because there is life in Christ and so many wonderful promises are wrapped up in the name of Jesus! What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jesus? Angles proclaimed His birth, shepherds rejoiced in His presence, wise men worshiped at His feet and satan trembled at His meager dawning. What does His presence, not presents, mean to you? What fills your heart, encompasses your spirit and engulfs your soul at this special time of year? Pretty ribbons, bows, boxes, gifts and tinsel?
Listen to this poem on an ornament: “What if this year at Christmas, I set Santa to the side, forgo the Frosty video and rest Rudolph from his ride. Perhaps I’d then forget those things, and listen in the night, For clapping sounds of angels wings, that caused the shepherds fright. And maybe I would start to shine, like that old eastern star, And wonder like those three wise men, who traveled from afar. To pay Him all due honor, not just a passing nod, This year I’m going to ponder, what Christmas means to God.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us would make it a priority this year to ponder what Christmas means to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit? To the Father it meant giving “His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish (go to hell) but have everlasting life.” To the Son it meant making “Himself of no reputation and taking upon HImself the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men and humbling Himself and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” To the Holy Spirit, it meant leaving His heavenly splendor and domain, coming to a sin cursed, fallen earth to indwell and teach believers and to convict the world of sin, righteousness and of judgment to come. Most of all to glorify Jesus Christ!
In 1828 Webster’s dictionary said Christmas was “The festival of the Christian church observed annually on the 25th day of December in memory of the birth of Christ and celebrated by a particular church service.” Today Webster’s dictionary defines Christmas as “A Christian feast on December 25 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday.” Notice anything different? Yeah me too! We need to put Christ back into Christmas, observe it in memory of His birthday, and if possible celebrate it with a particular church service. This year Christmas falls on a Sunday, so there is no excuse. It will be the ‘Lord’s Day’ in more ways than one.
I would strongly encourage you to find ways to celebrate His birth by focusing on Him. Make a birthday cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. Plan and pray about a special gift for Jesus, monetary as well as spiritual. Always read the Christmas story and take time to reflect on Him. Take the family to church on Christmas Day; if there is no service find a Christmas Eve service. Make sure you have a manger scene to tell the real story. Go cut a tree together; go out to breakfast; take the family out to dinner; build some memories; create some family traditions, but above all else, put Christ back into Christmas. After all, it is His birthday, is it not? Take time to ponder this year and every year to follow, what Christmas means to God; you won’t be sorry you did…I promise!”
Rev. Roger Boguski is the founder and president of ‘Olivet Ministries’. He and his wife have been faithfully serving the Lord for nearly 40 years and have continued serving as missionaries to the Jewish people for the last 18 years. Learn more about this amazing couple who have impacted my life and thousands of others for the glory of Christ.
Resolution: a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. Every year it’s the same old thing: January rolls around with the conclusion of the holiday season, people gaze upon the next 12 months and see this one as a new beginning; a fresh start. From dieting to financial responsibility to new professions to anger management to positive thinking to, well, you get the picture! Everyone everywhere will make some kind of resolution to better themselves or their living conditions by vowing to make some change to their lifestyle that most likely will be unaltered this time next year. Now don’t get me wrong; change can be good. If we see something or are convicted about something that needs to change in our lives, we should most definitely set out on a new course to right the ship. But why do so many; dare I say most of the New Year’s resolutions end in failure? Why do they end so soon after the resolution has been made, seemingly most by February 1st?
One reason is perhaps we’re not motivated from within; we’re not sincere. We do it because, well, it’s the thing to do right? Everybody else is making a resolution; I guess I should too. Or perhaps it’s deeper than that; perhaps we know of a change (or two or three) that need to be made, but we don’t genuinely want to make those changes or we don’t want to invest the time and discipline it will take to make those changes a reality. Or maybe we want to change, but we know that this is another futile attempt like so many others that is doomed to end in failure. But I believe there are bigger reasons why so many resolutions fail; ones that run deeper than shedding a few pounds or making an extra buck or being a “better” person; issues that we shy away from and don’t want to acknowledge; issues that lie at the heart of man.
One of those issues is self-dependence; we want to do everything ourselves. We want to lose the weight, become the better person, become more financially stable, all within our own means and our own abilities, power and intellect. And that is why we fail: we simply are not good enough, strong enough or intelligent enough to make those changes on our own. Our meager attempts at self-improvement only reveal our innumerable weaknesses. And when the failures come, we respond in one of two ways: denial or bitter resentment. We convince ourselves we just need to try a little harder or work a little longer. And when those attempts fall short we’re so saturated in our own egotistical pride that we absolutely will not acknowledge we have a greater need and dependency upon someone stronger than ourselves to become what it is we desire, yes, what we need to be.
Paul came to this humbling realization about himself as well as all of sinful, human man in Romans 7. After revealing the countless failures and shortcomings in his own life, Paul asks the question: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” To which he gives the hope laden answer in the next verse: “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” He touches on the same theme earlier in Romans 4: “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” Paul reiterates the same theme in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
If we find ourselves in need of making a resolution, if changes need to be made, may we all begin by realizing and acknowledging that the outward changes that may be necessary begin with an inward change of the heart, and the only One who can do that is the One who never changes Himself, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8; Rev. 1:8; 22:13).
Just and devout. What exactly is the meaning of these two words? Just means to be guided by truth, reason, justice and fairness; righteous or genuine. Devout means to be devoted to divine worship or service. If someone was described as just and devout an accurate definition of that person would read something like this: “A genuinely righteous person who is guided by truth and devoted to divine worship or service.” Could you imagine that being your reputation, your legacy or having that inscription on your tombstone one day? And that is exactly the description used in Scripture to describe two men who were directly involved in the Christmas story.
In Matthew 1:19 Joseph is described as “a just man”; while Simeon is described in Luke 2:25 as “just and devout”. Two ordinary men who lived their lives in relative obscurity, who didn’t receive accolades or awards, high salaries or social notoriety, but because of their righteous devotion and genuine truthfulness, they both received an honor that is arguably unmatchable in our society today: they are both noted as just men within the birth story of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Joseph of course was Mary’s husband, the mother of Jesus, who found favor in God’s eyes herself (Luke 1:28). But Joseph for all of his “just” character was not a man of popularity. After all, he lived in the tiny, obscure town of Nazareth which was of no reputation itself (John 1:45-46; 7:41-42, 52). And while he had the distinct honor of being the earthly father of the Son of God, there isn’t much mentioned of him past the first two chapters of Matthew and the fourth chapter of Luke.
As for Simeon, he was devout or devoted to awaiting the arrival of the Messiah, the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26), but after the few verses in Luke 2, we don’t read anything else of him throughout the New Testament.
Just and devout are the adjectives used in God’s Word to describe these two men. Joseph reacted in a manner which is quite honestly a little mind boggling when he gained knowledge that his wife was now expecting a child that was not from his biological lineage. Yet through it all he was completely obedient with all humility to God’s leading (Matt. 1:19-25; 2:13-15; 19-23). We don’t know how long Simeon had waited nor how old he was, but we know he had been faithful in awaiting the arrival of the Lord’s Christ and now was prepared to depart in peace as God’s personal promise to him had been fulfilled (Luke 2:25-35).
Just and devout these two men were rewarded beyond measure. Joseph witnessed the holy events that took place that night as the Savior of the world was born in a dark, lonely country-side and had a feeding trough as His first crib. He watched as the shepherds came to worship that night (Luke 2:8-20) and wise men a couple years later (Matt. 2:1-12). He also witnessed the Christ child grow “in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man” at least until the age of 12 (Luke 2:41-52). And Simeon? All Simeon did was hold the Salvation of the world in his arms (Luke 2:27-28).
It’s easy to understand why these two men are mentioned in Scripture and why they were chosen to receive such a holy honor, for they were men who were genuinely righteous and were guided by truth and devoted to divine worship and service to the King of Kings. What a legacy. May we all strive not just at Christmas time, but every month, every week, every hour of every day, to be just and devout to King Jesus, our Messiah, the Savior of the world.
May the God of our salvation bless you and your family as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Merry Christmas!
Well it’s been awhile since my last post; how easily time gets away and now we’ve raced through fall and it’s only 3 weeks until Christmas. Unbelievable!
Last weekends snow was absolutely beautiful, and as it fell I thought of the passage of Scripture that says God makes our sins to “be as white as snow” (Is. 1:18). It wasn’t until the storm clouds lifted and visibility returned was I able to see the beauty of the new fallen snow in its entirety. Everywhere I looked reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting that had made its way to the front of a Christmas card, with snow laden tree limbs, Christmas lights reflecting off the snow at night and the mountain tops that seemed to reach an eternity into the bright blue afternoon sky with their new covering of pure, spotless powder. Oh, those beautiful mountains!
It reminded me of a conversation with my family a few weeks ago before the last leaves of autumn with their vibrant colors had fallen to the ground. We were out driving and commenting on how beautiful everything looked; how blessed we are to have a God who can paint such a canvas purely for our enjoyment. I began to comment out loud how we don’t notice the colors and the beauty of the mountains as much when we live on top of one of those mountains. It isn’t until we came down off the mountain from the old Hundley farmhouse that we could see and truly appreciate all the beauty that surounds us.
And isn’t that the way it is in our spiritual walk as well? When we’re on the mountain tops of life, when everything is going well and the past seasons of life’s hardships are but a distant memory, we don’t notice just how blessed we truly are. Just like those colors and surrounding landscape seem to escape our attention when life is calm, so we too seem to forget about the daily blessings God has so richly bestowed upon each and every one of us. Yeah sure, we say we appreciate everything, but it’s not until we come down off that mountain top that we’re able to gaze back up at God’s beauty and goodness from the valley that we’re walking through that we truly begin to grasp, understand and fully appreciate the faithfulness of our loving Lord.
Some times I think God brings us down off our ‘high perch’ to remind us of all we have to be thankful for, of just how blessed we are, to remind us of where and what we once were: foreigners from afar who could not partake in God’s beauty. But because of His inexplicable love, mercy and grace, we can now enter into His presence, we are heirs of His beautiful and eternal kingdom and we no longer have to admire it from a distance, but as children of the King, we now can partake in the fulness of His richest blessings (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:26-4:7). We are heirs to His promise which is eternal life! (1 John 2:25).
During this beautiful time of year as we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the Christ child, the Savior of the world, may we cherish our mountaintops, for it is the Father of lights (James 1:17) who sees fit to so richly bless us. Perhaps more importantly, may we not forget or dread our valleys, for it is during those times we should draw closer to Him; that we can cast our eyes back upon our Savior, His magnificent beauty, His power, and His goodness.
As many of you know, my family and I have moved to Ferrum, Va.; a place where cattle, mountainous views and farm land abound and where stop lights, smog and traffic jams are extinct. In a town like this, it doesn’t take much for excitement to arise “on the mountain”, such as when my wife was driving our kids to town one day, came around a turn and walking towards her in the middle of the road was, what else, a cow! Pretty exciting to my boys and little girl. Earlier this summer a cow got out of the pasture and took full advantage of the corn smorgasbord in Mr. Hundley’s garden. And then today as I was leaving for work, I came around a corner and there was a cow grazing along side the road, but on the wrong side of the fence. Honestly, it didn’t even dawn on me until I had passed and thought, “That cow is outside the fence!” It made me wonder what’s going on with the cows; I feel like I’m in a Chik-Fil A commercial or something. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I thought, “Maybe they really do think the grass is greener on this side.”
I began to think about how we as people are just like those cows: no matter how much room we have to roam in this life, we always want to push the limits; to test the boundaries. Sometimes I wonder if the cows don’t have more room to live than the people do here in Ferrum; they have acre upon acre of land to roam, streams to wade in and drink from, and all the food they can eat. And yet any opportunity they get they’re outside the fence, grazing on the same grass that’s on the other. They come by and rub up against the fences, as if trying to test their strength or push their boundaries. It seems as if they’re not content with where they are; they want to test what’s on the outside of the fence.
Now we know animals don’t have the same sense of reason as humans; they’re not making a conscious effort or decision to escape, but given the opportunity, they take full advantage. What they don’t realize is the danger they’re exposed to once they’re outside the fence; those cows are one blind turn away from being ground beef! They don’t understand the fences are there to protect them, not to restrict them or restrain them from a better way of life.
This is exactly the same kind of “barrier” we have with God’s Word: it’s not there to make us miserable, it’s there to protect us. God doesn’t place boundaries around us to keep us from enjoying life. In fact, He says He wants us to enjoy life ( John 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4). He gives us boundaries out of His love for us because He knows the dangers that are lurking outside of those boundaries. When we begin to rub against the fences of His boudaries, we’re testing to see jsut how far we can go; we want to “test the waters”, to taste the grass that is greener on the other side.
Unlike those cows, we do have a God given sense of reason, the ability to choose between right and wrong (Joshua 24:15; Ps. 25:4-5; Isaiah 1:17-18). If we would only realize that God has warned us about the consequences of stepping outside the bounds of Scripture (Gen. 2:17; James 1:14-15), we would understand we’re in the same danger as those cows who seem perfectly content standing in the road grazing on green grass, but they’re blinded to the the dangers that are just around the corner (Prov. 12:15; 14:8-9; 19:3; Eccl. 10:3). May we be content with where God has placed us and what He has blessed us with (Phil. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6-8) and stop running through the gates and over the fences He has placed there to protect us. I promise you, the grass isn’t any better on the other side.
As many of you know, my family just returned from a vacation of sorts. Rebekah took the children and visited many wonderful friends in Wake Forest, NC before heading up to Maryland to spend some time with family. They were gone for a little over a week and returned this past Saturday evening, filling a major void in this man’s heart.
Prior to their departure my loving wife spent a whole afternoon cooking meals for me so I wouldn’t go hungry, even though I assured her a man can live on bolgna and mac-n-cheese for lengthy periods of time. Anyway, come Saturday evening I decided it would behoove me to clean the house a little bit prior to my wife’s arrival. I began with some laundry, took out the trash and then moved to the kitchen. The life lesson I learned next is one all men, whether a single bachelor or a grizzled, married veteran, would do well to lock into the vault of his memory. I opened the dishwasher door to load some dishes from the past week. (To give you a mental picutre of what I discovered next, picture one of those old horror movies when they opened the mummy’s tomb which had been sealed for centuries.) The stench that hit my nostrils was my first indication that something had gone terribly wrong. Evidently, to leave dishes inside a dishwasher for over a week with no exposure to light or fresh air is a bad thing. They tend to get, shall we say, a little fuzzy. The gray, purple and blue moss like substance that had overtaken our dishes and bowls had also started working its way up and over all our utensils, and had even began to grow on the inside of our dishwasher. Our dishwasher resembled one of my junior high science projects and Bekah was due home in a short time. There was no way I could clean all this up prior to her arrival. We would have to toss everything that was contaminated with our new home grown family pet and sanitize the inside of our dishwasher, using the strongest chemicals known to man that wouldn’t dissolve your esophagus.
As I laughed at myself and my new found wisdom, I began to think about how much that dishwasher reminded me of myself. On the outside it looked perfectly fine; it looked clean enough and it looked like, well a dishwasher. It wasn’t until I opened it up and saw what was inside that I was horrified at the sight and stench that was contained within its walls. But isn’t this what we all are inside: dirty, nasty, moldy and wretched (Rom. 7:24-25) deserving to be thrown to the waste side? How anyone could love such a despicable creature like myself I will never know nor understand. But that’s exactly what my Jesus has done. He sees what I am inside, He knows what I really am, He knows my heart and mind, my deepest, inner most attributes, and He loves me anyway.
A couple of things I have had to cleanse myself of through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is anger and bitterness. I once was an angry, contrite and frustrated human being. I carried thoughts of people’s hurtful words and actions around inside of me from years ago; from my earliest childhood. I wanted those people to suffer the judgment they deserved, if not a hundred times over the embarassment, hurt and humiliation they had caused me. I was a walking, living bundle of vengenace and often times took it out on the unfortunate souls who crossed my path on those days when thoughts from the past were fresh in my mind.
But then God got a hold of my heart, called me into the ministry and began revealing things to me I needed to change. (Boy did that hurt!) But I remember coming across James 1:19-20 which says “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” God revelaed to me that if I was going to be used by Him and for Him in any capacity He deemed fit, then I needed to rid my heart of this nasty substance that had slowly grown and over taken my heart and mind, just like the mold in that dishwasher. Jesus Himself told the Scribes and Pharisees that they were like the tombs that held the bodies of dead men that looked beautiful on the outside but were filled with the stench of wrotting flesh inside (Matt. 23:27-28). They were the same ones Jesus said honored Him with their mouth but their hearts were far from Him (Matt. 15:8). Jeremiah 17:10 tells us that God searches the heart and tests the mind.Peter told Simon the sorcerer that his heart was not right with God and told him to repent of his wickedness that God would perhaps forgive the thought of his heart. (Acts 8:21-22). Hebrews 12:1 says “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Relating that with Colossians 3:8 which says “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy langguage out of your mouth.” Notice the first 3 things mentioned are anger, wrath and malice. In Hebrews it tells us to put off all those things which will cause us to stumble in our race for Christ. Do you think anger, wrath, malice, bittereness, past hurts and frustrations of our past could cause us to stumble in our walk with Christ? Absolutely!
Our dishwasher is clean once again; mold and stench free! But it took alot of scrubbing and cleaning to reach that point. What is it that you’re consumed with today? What’s on the inside of your heart? Anger? Wrath? Malice? Bitterness? Anger and bitterness will consume and destroy the container that holds it. We can try cleaning ourselves all we want to, but the only One who can clean us perfectly and permanently is Jesus Christ. The sooner we throw out all those things which cause us to stumble and allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us from the inside out (1 John 1:9) the sooner we’ll begin to be a sweet aroma for Him (1 Cor. 2:14-15; Eph. 5:2). Until we do, we’ll smell and look just like that dishwasher.