The True Spirit of Christmas
It was only five days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our Houston area Target Shopping Center. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles. Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head.
My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing, but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them something. Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait. In front of me were two small children a boy of about 10 and a younger girl about 5. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers.
As the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along off key but happily. When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure. The clerk rang up he bill. "That will be $6.09" the clerk said, as the boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets finally coming up with $3.12.
"I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said. "We'll come back some other time, maybe tomorrow."
With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes," she cried.
"Well, we'll go home and work some more. Don't cry. We'll come back," he said. Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas.
Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you, Sir." "What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked.
The small boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Dad said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus."
The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?" My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes," I answered, "I am sure she will."
Silently, I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the
true spirit of giving. Christmas is not about the amount of money paid,
nor the amount of gifts purchased, nor trying to impress friends and relatives.
Christmas is about the love in your heart to share with those as Jesus
Christ has shared with each of us. Christmas is about the Birth of Jesus
whom God sent to show the world how much he really loves us. Please show
this love as we think of the upcoming season.
A Thoughtful Gift
It's just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas---oh, not the true
meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: overspending; the
frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry
and the dusting powder for Grandma; the gifts given in desperation because
you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts,
sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike.
The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level
at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league
match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These
youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be
the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our
boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling
shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was
wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect
a wrestler's ears.
It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them
could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like
this could take the heart right out of them."
Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That's when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an
assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to
the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree,
the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift
from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and
in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition---one
year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game,
another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned
to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the
last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their
new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the
envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas
rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree
up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in
the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.
A Jehovah Witness Christmas
by Chuck Brooke
Reaching the lost ...
The Watchtower takes special care to separate people from the happy family gatherings of Christmas. The magazines target our Christmas celebrations with ridicule and disdain. Then the Kingdom Halls urge the poor Witnesses to take this message of criticism and gloom from door to door.
Through my own door-to-door visitation in British Columbia with my faithful deacon, Harry, we discovered many Jehovah's Witnesses. Characteristically, they would have you take their literature but they fear ours. Sound familiar? The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has such a powerful control over their minds. How sad when precious people give their lives to a lie -- facing eternal sorrow without the Friend of sinners, the Jesus of the manger, the Savior of the cross, the Lord over the empty tomb and King of eternity! Jesus was sent to "preach good tidings unto the meek ... to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound" Isaiah 61:1. We are and will be forever thankful for our Lord's boundless compassion!
So what can we do to help those held in Satan's grip and to expose his deception? Here is a suggestion that may be a blessing to your outreach as it was to mine. It's a ministry of love, going back to people the second time, and taking one more step to reach the brokenhearted and to set the captive free! I made a Christmas card and took it to the Jehovah's Witness doors - those doors without any sign of the joy of Christmas! Somewhere (under the doormat, around the mailbox, or in the edge of the door), I left Christmas cheer and the good news about the Savior of the world. I believe that through their curiosity and the quietness of their homes, the Spirit of God will use His truth to give someone hope and to set a captive free! Maybe, friend, the Lord will give you such an opportunity to spread the real message about the Son of God through this new Christmas season! Being winners in seeking souls is not purely accidental. Let's PLAN TO BE EFFECTIVE and do what we can to tell the whole world about Jesus Christ!
The inside of our JW Christmas card read much like this:
NO CHRISTMAS AT THE KINGDOM HALL! (The Watchtower was exactly right!)
"Since the celebration of our Lord's birth is not a matter of divine appointment or injunction, but merely a tribute of respect to him, it is not necessary for us to quibble particularly about the date. We may as well join with the civilized world in celebrating the grand event on the day which the majority celebrate -- 'Christmas day.''" -- a Watchtower quote from Dec. 1, 1904, p. 364.
Today Jehovah's Witnesses say, "We are to remember Jesus' death not His birth." Does God's Word forbid celebrating Jesus' birth? No. We find in the Scriptures that the opposition came from whom? King Herod and Satan's kingdom! The inhabitants of Heaven set the true precedent for earth! Luke 2:8-14 shows how Jehovah approves of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ! We read about "the glory of the Lord" and "great joy!" For who? "All people!" "A multitude of heavenly host" was joyous with celebration and praise! How would the shepherds on earth respond? Maybe saying, "Oh, I just can't see what all those angels are excited about"? No! They were not rebellious towards God; they pleased Him as they joined Heaven in this glorious celebration of Jesus' birth!
Was Jesus born on December 25th? Who can be sure? Yet the Watchtower put it well in 1926, saying, "The event is so important that it is always appropriate to call it to the minds of the people, regardless of the date" (Watchtower--Dec. 15, 1926, p. 371). People today often celebrate birthdays on different days. For example, Lincoln's birthday may be celebrated on a Monday. The real importance is not based on the date. Every day is a good day to praise the Lord! Jesus commended the children, saying the stones would cry out if they stopped praising Him (Luke 19:37-40). When was the last time you heard someone from the Kingdom Hall giving praise to the Lord Jesus Christ? Scripturally, if Jesus does not receive worshipful honor equal to the Father's, your honor of the Father is unacceptable to God (John 5:23).
Why worship Jesus? Isaiah called the Christ child the "Mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6), then clarified His identity in context saying the "Mighty God" is Jehovah (Isaiah 10:20). From the beginning people did not worship "him and her," as Roman Catholicism worships Mary. But they "worshipped him" (Matthew 3:11). The original language shows how the Son receives the exact "worship" as the Father. Was Jesus worshiped or does the Watchtower Bible properly suggest otherwise? Comparing Watchtower Bibles clears up these issues. Compare the 1950, 1953, 1960, and 1970 editions with the current NWT in Hebrews 1:6. Or test the Watchtower's inconsistency through the renderings given in the Greek interlinear in (Rev. 22:8 with Mark 2:2), (Rev. 5:14 with Mat. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9,17), and (Heb. 11:21 with Mark 5:6 and John 9:38).
What about the pagan origins of Christmas? Do born- again Christians attach pagan meanings to lights? No, lights remind God's people about Jesus, the Light of the world. Consider the pagan origin of the word "December," for example. Isn't December written on the front of every Watchtower and Awake magazine this month? Would you think the organization is apostate, solely for mixing a word of pagan origin with it's religion? Or do such pagan meanings from the past mean something different to people today?
What about the Old Testament references about ungodly people decorating a tree (Isaiah 44)? Read the context; the person was making an idol to worship. To say people worship the Christmas tree, or that everyone who enjoys Christmas celebrates Santa Claus, simply is not honest! Fantasy and commercialism are the true problems, distracting people from celebrating the Lord Jesus Christ.
What about gift giving? Good-will to all men is certainly commended! Judge Rutherford, the second Watchtower president, was very excited about his "numerous Christmas presents." Watchtower--January 15, 1919, page 31. If giving gifts is acceptable on any other day of the year (and it is to Jehovah's Witnesses), logically why shouldn't it be allowed on December 25th?
Dear one, the best gift you can give to Jesus Christ is yourself; and He offers the wonder of salvation as His gift to you! "For by grace are ye saved through faith (context - faith in Jesus); and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" Ephesians 2:8-9. Those who are givers understand that gifts are always FREE! No one runs for a purse to pay the giver or offers to work for the gift. What an insult that would be! You simply receive gifts with thanksgiving (Romans 4:4; 11:6; Galatians 3:24). Could we say the gift of God is a reward? The Watchtower teaches about, "Working hard for the reward of eternal life." April 15, 1972, page 491. A reward is something a person earns. The Bible tells about eternal life as being God's gift! "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" Romans 6:23b. You, dear one, can have God's wonderful gift by receiving Jesus Christ! "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" John 1:12. How can a sincere person receive Him? "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!" Romans 10:13." (Note the "Jehovah" of verse 13 in the NWT is the same as the Jesus of verse 10, connected in thought and person by the word "for" in every connecting verse.) Calling upon God is calling upon Jesus (See Interlinear in Acts 7:59-60). Jesus invited, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" Matthew 11:28. Yes, He includes you in this invitation! He is waiting for you to come to Him ... even now!
May this be the greatest December to you and your beloved family, including
the finest blessings that you have ever known in your life! We experience
the victory that determines our own destinies and we become right with
God through trusting Jesus Christ alone to set us free!
There was once a man who didn't believe in the incarnation or the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and was skeptical about God. He and his family lived in a farm community. His wife was a devout be
One snowy Christmas eve she was taking the kids to the Christmas eve service at church. She plea ded with him to come, but he firmly refused. He ridiculed the idea of the incarnation of Christ and After they left, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As he looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.
He had compassion for them and wanted to help them. He thought to himself, "The barn would be a great place for them to stay! It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the Starting to get frustrated, he went over and tried to shoo them, run after them, and chase them toward the barn. They only got scared and scattered into every direction except toward the barn. Not
Feeling totally frustrated, he exclaimed, "Why don't they follow me! Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm! How can I possibly get them into the one place to save.
He stood silently for a moment as the words that he just said reverberated back to himself in his mind: "If only I could become like one of them -- then I could save them." He thought about his As the winds and blinding snow abated, his heart became quiet and pondered this thought. He understood what Christmas was all about. He knew why Christ had come.
The Painting of a Son
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.
The widowed elder man looked on with satisfaction, as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son's trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action.
The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened he depressed old man. As the walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier, with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, "I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you."
As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man's son had
told everyone of his father's love of fine art. "I'm an artist," said the
soldier, and I want to give you this." As the old man unwrapped the package,
the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man's son. Though the world
would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the
young man's face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked
the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours
later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task.
True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy's life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.
As the stories of his son's gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art
world was in anticipation. With the collector's passing, and his only son
dead, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will
of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day,
the day he had received his greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world's most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim "I have the greatest collection." The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum's list. It was the painting of the man's son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid.
The room was silent. "Who will open the bidding with $100?" he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke.
From the back of the room came, "Who cares about that painting? It's just a picture of his son. Let's forget it and go on to the good stuff." More voices echoed in agreement. "No, we have to sell this one first," replied the auctioneer. "Now, who will take the son?"
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. "Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That's all I have. I knew the boy, so I'd like to have it."
"I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?" called the auctioneer. After more silence, the auctioneer said, "Going once, going twice. Gone."
The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, "Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!" The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, "What do you mean it's over? We didn't come here for a picture of some old guy's son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what's going on here!"
The auctioneer replied, "It's very simple. According to the will of
the father, whoever takes the son . . . gets it all."
Puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same - the love of a Father - a Father whose greatest joy came from his son who went away and gave his life rescuing others. And because of that Father's love...whoever takes the Son gets it all.
The Gold Slippers
It was only four days before Christmas. The spirit of the season hadn't yet caught up with me, even though cars packed the parking lot of our local discount store. Inside the store, it was worse. Shopping carts and last minute shoppers jammed the aisles.
Why did I come today? I wondered. My feet ached almost as much as my head. My list contained names of several people who claimed they wanted nothing but I knew their feelings would be hurt if I didn't buy them anything.
Buying for someone who had everything and deploring the high cost of items, I considered gift buying anything but fun. Hurriedly, I filled my shopping cart with last minute items and proceeded to the long checkout lines. I picked the shortest but it looked as if it would mean at least a 20 minute wait.
In front of me were two small children - a boy of about 5 and a younger girl. The boy wore a ragged coat. Enormously large, tattered tennis shoes jutted far out in front of his much too short jeans. He clutched several crumpled dollar bills in his grimy hands. The girl's clothing resembled her brother's. Her head was a matted mass of curly hair. Reminders of an evening meal showed on her small face. She carried a beautiful pair of shiny, gold house slippers. As the Christmas music sounded in the store's stereo system, the girl hummed along, off key but happily.
When we finally approached the checkout register, the girl carefully placed the shoes on the counter. She treated them as though they were a treasure.
The clerk rang up the bill. "That will be $6.09," she said. The boy laid his crumpled dollars atop the stand while he searched his pockets. He finally came up with $3.12. "I guess we will have to put them back, " he bravely said. "We will come back some other time, maybe tomorrow."
With that statement, a soft sob broke from the little girl. "But Jesus would have loved these shoes, " she cried.
"Well, we'll go home and work some more. Don't cry. We'll come back," he said.
Quickly I handed $3.00 to the cashier. These children had waited in line for a long time. And, after all, it was Christmas. Suddenly a pair of arms came around me and a small voice said, "Thank you lady."
"What did you mean when you said Jesus would like the shoes?" I asked.
The boy answered, "Our mommy is sick and going to heaven. Daddy said she might go before Christmas to be with Jesus."
The girl spoke, "My Sunday school teacher said the streets in heaven are shiny gold, just like these shoes. Won't mommy be beautiful walking on those streets to match these shoes?"
My eyes flooded as I looked into her tear streaked face. "Yes" I answered, "I am sure she will."
Silently I thanked God for using these children to remind me of the true spirit of giving."