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The First Christmas Card

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작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:08 조회1,031회 댓글0건

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 Philippians 4: 4-7


 

  Melvin Maddocks of The Christian Science Monitor once spoke of ‘Noel Neurosis,’ or neuroses that people sometimes suffer during the Christmas season.  It is a psychological condition that afflicts people during the holiday season, as a sense of loneliness, a feeling of futility and emptiness compound to drive people into depression.  Perhaps it is a feeling that ones without family or loved ones get when they sees other people joyously walking the streets with bundles of presents under their arms, visiting the people they love during the holiday season. 

 

 

 Today, let’s look around us to see if there is anyone who might be suffering from this ‘Christmas Neurosis’ or Christmas blues during this holiday season.  We need not look far, for recently, some of us within this congregation were met with some difficulties and tribulations during this holiday season.  There are some of us with families away overseas.  We must remember those people, who may feel loneliness during this great season, as we prepare our own celebration and perhaps include them to make this a more joyous, holy season. 

 

 

 For today’s sermon, I would like to talk about Christmas cards.  Do you know who made the first-ever Christmas card?  The card that we send to our friends, neighbors, and loved ones during the holiday season was first made by artist J.C. Horsley in 1843.  The first Christmas card ever made was as big as a normal post card.  About 3 years later, about 1,000 of lithographed cards, bearing the same design that Horsley originally created, were printed for the first Director of the Kensington Museum in England, Sir Henry Cole. 

 

 

  The first Christmas card depicted the royal family of Queen Victoria, as they sat around a table celebrating Christmas.  The image illustrates the royal family raising a toast for the health of their families and friends and for the well being and peace for their nation.  Interesting quotes taken from the Bible which are perhaps a little awkward and discordant with the ambiance of the card are inscribed next to the picture:  “Clothe the poor” and “Feed the hungry.”  And to complete the card, underneath the picture was a greeting for the holiday season. 

 

 

 Most of the critics of this first Christmas card point out that the contents of the card has very little to do with the Christian church.  In another words, rather than celebrating and recollecting the profound meaning of Christ’s birth, the image of the card depicts the excessive, meaningless secular celebration of Christmas. 

 What are the contents of the cards you have received during Christmas?  Do they depict the true meaning of Christmas birth of Jesus?  Or are they just another mere reflection of commercialized Christmas, greetings without a true meaning? 

 I believe that today’s scripture, which comes from Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4 through 7, contain the perfect words for this holiday season.  I believe that these words are the perfect Christmas card that God is giving to those in worry, sadness, and loneliness during this holiday season.

 

 

 The Epistle of Philippians is a letter from Paul to the people of Philippia, written while Paul was imprisoned.  Despite the uncertainties surrounding his own future as he was imprisoned, Paul turns to comfort the people of Philippia.  Among the letters of Paul, Philippians is regarded as a true letter of friendship, one that is overflowing with personal love and trust for fellow Christians.

 

 

 Then what is the meaning of this Christmas card, delivered to us today from God?

 1.   We must always be joyous within our Lord.

  Paul does not tell us to be happy only when there is a cause for joy.  He tells us to always be happy, no matter where we are and no matter what happens to us.  This joy is so important that Paul reiterates it twice in verse 4 of today’s scripture:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!”  ‘Joy,’ or being joyous, is not a matter of choice for Christians; rather, being joyous is a command from God.  Joy for Christians is not some temporary feeling that comes and goes depending on our mood and cause for happiness; rather, it is an eternal state of mind that must always be present as we lead our lives with Christ.  This joy, as a matter of fact, is so important that Paul, who was suffering in prison due to old age of disease, repeats this word 16 times in his letter to the Philippians.

2. Because the day of our Lord’s arrival is near us, we must show our generosity and leniency to all people.

 

 

 Take a look at verse 5 of today’s scripture.  “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.”  The world “gentleness” comes from the Hebrew word ‘epieikes,’ which does not have a direct translation in English.  New Revised Standardized Version (NSRV) Bible translates this word as ‘gentleness,’ while other versions translate it as ‘magnanimity.’  For our purposes, the word ‘generosity’ or ‘leniency’ sounds most apt and appropriate to treat our neighbors with the most understanding of hearts.  Our generosity and leniency should not be limited to just people of our congregation or Christians, for that matter; rather, as the Bible dictates, our leniency and generosity should be extended to all people. 

 

 

 Always remember that the Hebrew word ‘epieikes’ also has auxiliary meanings that the word in its original form also means equity, justice, and reasonableness.  We must treat all people around us with love, friendliness, leniency, equality, justice, and respect.

 

 

 Then why must we show generosity to our neighbors?  It is because the Lord is at hand.  In another words, the day of the reincarnation of Jesus is near us; as such, we must not let trivial matters upset and depress us, and allow our emotions to get the better of us by treating those around us without respect, love, or justice.  We must treat all with generosity and leniency in our hearts.  Those who do not believe in the afterlife consider this world and the time they have in this world as everything; naturally, their greed and attachment towards this world is great.  Because of this greed and attachment, they tend to be uptight, their hearts unable to take on a lenient, generous dispositions.  They become surly and disrespectful towards others.  Yet, those who believe in the arrival of Christ can empty their hearts of all vain emotions and widen the scope of their generosity and leniency towards others.  That is because we know that we are but a journeymen in this world, who are merely transiting through this world to do God’s work.  We know that the end does not lie within this world; as such, we tend to be less attached and greedy towards those things in this world.

 

 

  Christmas is the day that Christ came to earth.  We are waiting for the second Christmas.  During the first Christmas, Christ humbly came into this world, in a manger in Bethlehem, as the savior of this world; during the second Christmas, He will come to this world with Heaven’s glory and authority, to pass judgment on us.  As the Second Coming of Christ nears us, our hearts must become magnanimous and gentle.  We must not bicker and fight over trivial matters with those around us.  As we wait the second Christmas, keep in mind that we must widen the scope of generosity and leniency in our hearts when dealing with others.

 3.  Do not worry about anything; just pray to the Lord with thankfulness in your hearts.

 

 

 Take a look at verse 6 of today’s scripture.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  Do not worry about anything, although you may consider it to be a source of anxiety; rather, pray and give your best in all you do.  Whenever he became anxious about something, Paul would chase that anxiety by praying; in fact, prayer was so important to Paul in chasing his worries that he is using three synonyms to stress his point.  He is repeating the words prayer, supplication, and requests, showing just how important prayer is in the life of a Christian.

 

 

 When Paul was writing his letter to the Philippians while in prison, he was not the only one who was suffering from anxiety and worries.  Philippians themselves had a lot to worry about.  In chapter 1 of Philippians, verse 28, adversaries appear to terrify Philippians.  Chapter 3, verse 2 of the Philippians also warns the Philippians to beware of the dogs and the evil workers and watch out for mutilations.  These warnings are an evidence of the threat posed by pagan worshippers and false priests who disrupted the good order of the Philippian church.  In verse 2, chapter 4 of Philippians, we can see that there were some friction and discord between Euodia and Syntyche, evangelistic partners of Paul.  The Philippians church was no exception among the early churches in that they too were afflicted by threats posed by false priests and persecutions and challenges from the non-believers; internally, they were wrought with strife, friction, and rift among its members.

 

 

 To the people of the Philippian church, who had many internal and external problems to be anxious about, Paul is imploring them not to worry.  That is because worry, anxiety, and trepidation are all symptoms of faithlessness.  For those who believe that God is with them, and for those who always pray with thankfulness in their hearts, God will strike all fear, worries, and anxieties from their hearts.  The important thing for us to do is to pray with thanksgiving.  Prayer without thanksgiving with blame and complaint in its place cannot move God to help us.  No matter what situation we are in, only prayer with thanksgiving can help us solve our problems.

4.  Peace of God will watch over our hearts and minds.

 

 

 Even though we may be in a difficult situation, one thing will happen for certain when we pray with thanksgiving.  God will give peace as a gift to us, to replace our anxieties.  Take a look at verse 7 of today’s scripture.  “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  The phrase that we must focus on is “the peace of God.”  The phrase “God of peace” is found in numerous places in letters of Paul in Philippians 4: 9, Romans 15: 33, Romans 16: 20, and 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 but the phrase “the peace of God” is only found in this verse, in Philippians 4: 7.  The peace of God protects our hearts and minds from all chaos, confusion, and uncertainties; the peace of God cannot be taken by secular force and is long lasting.  I hope that the peace of God will fill each and every one of our hearts during this Christmas day.

 

 

 At about 10,000 feet of the Rocky Mountains lies the limit of vegetation growth the altitude where all vegetation ceases to grow.  The trees that lie at this extreme fringe of nature do not tend to grow straight due to the extreme weather conditions at that altitude; rather, the trees take on a ‘kneeling or bending’ position.  Despite the extreme, severe and unforgiving weather conditions or perhaps because of it the trees at this altitude must exercise great deal of perseverance.  The interesting fact is that the renowned violins of this world those with exquisite sound quality are all made of wood extracted from trees at this high altitude the kneeling trees. 

 

 

  It is true.  The true workers of God are made through tribulations.  God exposes those who He deems worthy to the elements of nature He does not leave them in a green house, protected from the harsh elements of winter weather.  Through tribulations and suffering, He forges His workers into strong beings; only then does He put them to use in pursuit of His beautiful purpose.  Through us, in tribulations and problems, God does His work.

 With what attitude, or disposition, did you come to church on this Christmas day?  Is your heart heavy due to problems of this world?  Do anxieties and worries afflict you?  Do inexplicable loneliness and feelings of emptiness follow you?

 

 

  On this beautiful Christmas morning, take a beautiful Christmas card with you when you leave.  The card is made of the words contained in Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4 though 7.  This card is not written in ink, but written in God’s Spirit; it is not written on a stone tablet, but on a tablet of our spirits.  It is an unerasable card, written on and deeply inscribed in your hearts with words of God.  And this card is much older than the one that Horsley made back in 1843.  This is the oldest Christmas card in existence.  I am passing out this first Christmas to you all this morning!

 

 

During this joyous Christmas day, God will give never-ending joy, thanksgiving, and peace to all those who hold this Christmas card in their hearts.  Amen.     

 

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