Five Things to Remember this Christmas

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

This year as a ministry, Lifeline has seen King Jesus show Himself faithful in countless ways. He has truly been our Wonderful Counselor who has directed and ordained our steps through many difficult decisions; decisions that always effect vulnerable children, their families, and our mission. His counsel is always better than that of the world.

We have also seen the abundant provision which is ours through the mighty hand of the Lord and the gracious love of a Father whose love is everlasting. And even though at times throughout 2019 it felt as though we may have been walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we truly feared no evil because we knew that the Prince of Peace was guarding us with His rod and staff.

Christmas gives the believer confidence, courage, and conviction. It is a celebration amidst the hustle and bustle, it is worship throughout the crazy, and it is true peace and joy even among the sadness of a broken world.

Isaiah promised that these would be the gifts of the Messiah, King Jesus. He foretold that God would not forget His sin sick people, He would redeem them. Not only would He redeem us, He would establish us, uphold us, and protect us from this time and forever more.

This Christmas, let us not miss that although the redeemed of the Lord have much to celebrate, that there is still so much to do in proclaiming the justice of the Kingdom. We must be reminded that our King came to establish justice and to restore right order.

Beloved, in this current world, which is our rental home until the return of humanity’s true King, let us be continually reminded and spurred on towards Gospel driven justice which shows the nature, character, and redemption of Jesus. We must take action for the orphan and vulnerable children among us who have nothing to celebrate this Christmas. They do not need our sympathetic pity, but action.  Sympathy and empathy for others should never be an excuse for our apathy towards injustice.

Paul says to the church at Colossae in Colossians 1:15-23, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

There are five takeaways that I hope we see from this passage this Christmas Day. These are reminders that I pray would lead us to the Gospel, would propel us to do the justice of the kingdom, and would guard us through our own trials and suffering.

The first reminder is that all life is created by God and is precious. Life in the womb is precious and life outside of the womb is special. We must never mark our lives or the lives of others as an inconvenience. When we find pure delight in Christ and in the Lord, then we are willing to do which seem inconceivable to the world all for the glory of our all satisfying Savior.

And this leads us right into the second major takeaway that we see about doing the justice of the kingdom found in this passage.  Our God is preeminent and we live for the glory of God, so this reminds us secondly that we glorify God by our works of Gospel driven justice towards humanity.

One of the ways that we glorify God is by performing the works of the kingdom of our marvelous Father to orphaned and vulnerable children. As the family of God, we seek to bring restoration to families who have lost their children to foster care, as well as to restore families through adoption and foster care.

Beloved, we have been called to liberate vulnerable children and their families from their true oppressor, the devil. Because true restoration comes when they shake lose from the power of sin through the blood of Christ Jesus.

If you read the Bible you see a God bent towards justice for the marginalized, but also you see a religious people who didn’t like that message and so they sought to kill or destroy the message of God as well as the messengers – the judges, the prophets, and then even the Son, King Jesus. The religious people in the Bible were not mesmerized by the thought of displaying the glory of God, they were looking for a physical savior not a spiritual savior. Today we are much the same.

We glorify God when we lay down our desires and begin to serve God by showing justice to humanity, which brings us to the third major takeaway we see from this passage, which is that true hope comes from the guarantee of Christ that this fallen world is not our true home.

The Gospel reminds us that this is not our home. And this propels us to risk our comfort and security for the sake of the kingdom. We aren’t living for our kingdom here, but we are living with hope for another home.  We do justice in this earthly kingdom in order to show and tell others of our true home. This world is like looking at your reflection in a broken or shattered mirror. We see not perfection, but the flaws; however, if we look closely enough we can see beautiful glimpses of what God created this world to be.

Each year my family and I have been blessed by dear friends and partners in ministry to use their beach house in early fall. These trips are such a rich blessing and have been times of true and deep refreshment. We look forward with anticipation to beach week each year.

However, each beach week has had its own funny troubles or imperfections including sand worms (little needles in the ocean), red tide, sand lice, biting flies, and the overpopulation of seaweed. Even though we look out to the ocean and the beauty of these weeks, we realize they aren’t perfect weeks, but simply a sliver of the glory of God as we stare at the ocean, enjoy the pastels of the setting sun, and bask in the salty ocean breeze. Creation is marred and, beloved, if you are a Christ-follower, then this is not your home. You are an exile and pilgrim.

A marred creation and a sin-sick world should not surprise or shock us. Sinners sin and lost people act lost. And such were we before we were washed by the blood of Christ. So pilgrim and refugee looking forward to the coming Kingdom, take heart and take action.

And this leads us to the fourth takeaway from this passage which is Gospel driven justice brings trials and suffering, but Jesus brings peace, joy, hope and strength. The vulnerable, stranger, and fatherless all live in darkness, and so when we take the light of the hope of the Gospel we can expect and assume that Satan will counterattack. These attacks are harsh.  We cannot be surprised when the darkness strikes back at the light. For those of you who are weary and burdened by the struggle and attacks of the adversary, know that he is attacking because he deems you as a threat.  But I implore you to not shrink back from doing good.

Jesus will give you peace, joy, hope, and strength to persevere, which brings us to the final, fifth point, and most crucial point, all works of justice separated from Gospel proclamation are futile.

Beloved, there is life in none other but the God of Jacob. Justice must never be divorced from Gospel proclamation. Our homes, our neighborhoods, our pocketbooks, and our influence will never make the everlasting change in the hearts and lives of the fatherless and vulnerable, but the Gospel will bring everlasting hope and victory.

As our Father’s children we know we have been given a task; we have been given a Great Commission. We have future family members that need to be claimed among the nations. Our Father has said go, and so we go.

The heart of the ministry of Lifeline, is to proclaim the Gospel to the nations through care, compassion, rescue, and discipleship of the fatherless. Let’s pray that the Gospel will always be central in everything that we do. Let’s pray that the Lord will continue to open doors for his name to be proclaimed, not only here in the US, but also to the streets of India; to the institutions of China; to the communities of Ethiopia; as well as in every hamlet, village, and people group which is representative of every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Praise the Lord for He is Worthy. Merry Christmas…

This 2019 Christmas devotional was written by Lifeline’s President & Executive Director, Herbie Newell.