My family and I have now arrived safely in Southern California and are excited at the prospect of experiencing Christmas in the USA for the first time. Yes, I know that many outside America bewail the superficiality and consumerism that gets plastered all over their television screens as they experience it from the outside looking in. But being on the inside for the first time I am heartened and greatly encouraged by the large number of authentic Christ centered people we have already met. I have never experienced so much kindness and generosity from strangers and, though we are far from extended family, we have no shortage of families who have invited us to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ next Sunday. This is one of the great things about being a Christian - that we have been adopted into a far greater family that comprises every tribe, race, and tongue. I think this is what Jesus was referring to when He said:
"Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
There is persecution in this life as a Christian. And it is great to have our adopted family around us as we go through it. May we remember those who are persecuted at this time, pray for them, and be reminded that fellowship in Christ's sufferings ultimately points us to Christ's mission - a mission He fully accomplished. May we remember that this Christmas . . . lest we forget.
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25b-28)
He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:10-14)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:1-10)