Sunday, December 13, 2009

CHRISTmas Roots

As a child growing up in the Philippines, raised by Catholic parents who didn't know GOD, who did not read the Bible, and who went to church because it was the thing to do -- my memories of CHRISTmas past were warm, fuzzy pictures of warm bibingka (rice cakes cooked with fragrant banana leaves on charcoal fires) bought from street vendors, homemade paper decorations (some from the silver foil lining of cigarette packs), a meagerly decorated pine tree with very long needles, star-shaped paper lanterns alight from inside with candles (yes...they were fire hazards!), CHRISTmas carols, and very simple gifts of plastic toys or homemade clothes or a few pesos.

But no memories of the gift of JESUS.

i did not hear the story of the Baby JESUS being born in Bethlehem, though i knew the virgin Mary was His mother. We children (my older sister, younger brother and i) were not read any bedtime stories of Him being a carpenter's son, nor that He was of Jewish roots, nor that He was the Messiah...the Savior of the world. It never really registered that CHRISTmas was JESUS' birthday celebration. No one told me that the true reason for celebrating CHRISTmas was the birth of CHRIST JESUS. Duh! It was just about presents and sweets and attending the midnight mass with bibingka afterwards.

(The ShoppE at Rose's CHRISTmas merchandise)

That was a lifetime ago...and yet how current today. i wonder how many children today are as ignorant as i was then, more than 40 years ago, because today's parents don't take the time (nor have the inclination) to explain to their children that CHRISTmas is about JESUS. Here in the land of plenty, where department stores were open at 3 or 4am after Thanksgiving to usher in the CHRISTmas season -- how many parents taught their children, by example, that shopping for toys (adults' and children's) in that mad frenzy was what got them excited at CHRISTmas time? How many parents acquiesced to their children's demands for this gadget or for that widget -- whether they could afford it or not, adding on to their mounting debt, because to them CHRISTmas is about stuff? (Though at The ShoppE at Rose's, one may shop guilt-free, for the prices are ultra-low and every cent goes to missions and charities.)

i'm no longer an ignoramus about CHRISTmas. i'm not saying that i'm smart nor even wise, nor intellectually savvy nor even a crack wit -- i just know today what CHRISTmas is really all about.

CHRISTmas is about really is...and it's only about Love.

And it starts with GOD, the Father -- and ends with GOD, the Son.

For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)

For GOD, the Almighty Father, Sovereign Creator of all the heavens and the earth, of everything seen and unseen, Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all anyone can ask or even think (Eph 3:20) -- out of His infinitely gracious heart -- gave to the world that He so loved -- His only Son, JESUS, as sacrificial atonement for our sin debt, so that everyone, whosoever believes that JESUS is the Son of the One True GOD, Who came down from Heaven, born of the virgin Mary, destined by GOD to be the Suffering Servant, Who took on the whole world's sin (past, present and future) in His sinless earthly body, Who satisfied GOD's holy wrath by dying on the cross, and Who was raised from the grave by the omnipotent power of the Holy SPIRIT, thereby defeating death -- will also grant victory over death and everlasting Life for those who trust in Him as their Lord, Savior, Messiah...the CHRIST.

The miracle of CHRISTmas is not so much the virgin birth...the bigger miracle of CHRISTmas is how GOD Himself -- Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent -- came to be contained in the most vulnerable vessel of all...the flesh of a helpless human baby. The true miracle is how the inconceivable SPIRIT of LOVE, the Word Himself, became manifest in the physical world -- so that we, the created, were able to touch and laugh and cry and eat and walk with The Creator. The Inconceivable conceived in the flesh... Immanuel... GOD with us! It's inconceivable and incomprehensible...yet GOD, in His almighty power and infinite wisdom, conceived this miraculous expression of His ultimate Love, through the humanity of JESUS CHRIST.

This CHRISTmas "present," this today, holds the most heartfelt and meaningful CHRISTmas of all for me -- because this year, after being so ignorant of the true meaning of CHRISTmas for so long -- i know that the cause for celebrations and festivities is the birthday of JESUS, my Beloved CHRIST. Whether or not December 25 is His actual birthday or what has become the traditional date (for some Bible scholars have proposed September as JESUS' month of birth, Willmington's Guide to the Bible), it doesn't matter to me, for every day is CHRISTmas -- every day i'm alive is a gift from GOD. And every day i receive this gift of life is another day to live for my GOD and Lord, JESUS CHRIST.

What would CHRISTmas be without the CHRIST? What would CHRISTmas be without GOD? Would it still be "merry"? And even if it's not December 25, what would any day be like without any presence of GOD at all?

For GOD is holy... love... mercy... peace... joy... longsuffering... kind... good... faithful... gentle... just... righteous... compassionate... laughter... light... almighty... wise... true... pure... creator... sovereign... eternal... forgiving. GOD are all these things and infinitely, indescribably more. Without GOD's presence, and all that He is, can you imagine the unimaginably horrific world it would be because of the utter absence of His loving presence? It doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to picture hell without the presence of GOD...but the Reality of it is unfathomable to the finite mind.

How can i not see JESUS as the ultimate CHRISTmas gift to be received? To be desired above all earthly gifts...those fleeting gifts that will lose their luster after a few turns around the block? JESUS is the gift that lasts forever, Who never fades but continues to radiate Love in and through that whosoever who believes and trusts in Him as Lord and Savior.

What is CHRISTmas but GOD's love made manifest? And what is CHRISTmas without JESUS? It would be a heartless joke played upon mankind -- fostered by that father of all lies, that wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, that angel of light fallen from heaven -- deceiving hardened hearts with political correctness... so right in man's sight, but ultimately abominable in GOD's eyes.

But GOD is GOD, and satan is most definitely not... he's just a wannabe... like many of the world who are puffed up with pride.

Then Job replied to the LORD: "I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You." (Job 42:1-2)

Even my Lord JESUS in humble obedience said, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)

Because JESUS paid for my sin-debts by His atoning blood on the cross, i am free today and forever from GOD's holy wrath and righteous condemnation. Through GOD's abundant grace, i received the gift of the Kingdom of Heaven -- the ultimate Paradise -- through my faith in CHRIST. So is JESUS gift enough for all time? For me...a resounding Yes!

And you? What gift can you receive this CHRISTmas, this Holy Day, that could be worth more than Heaven itself, through saving faith in CHRIST JESUS?

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