Monday, December 24, 2012

"That’s What Christmas Is All About"

Each Christmas season brings with it scores of TV specials, some quite old and others somewhat new. Some are a bit silly and really do not properly convey the meaning and magnitude of what the holiday is at its core. But many of these remain classics complete with touching story lines and fine and memorable acting performances.

But for myself, there is one that rises above the rest. This one would not seem, on the surface, to even be mentioned along with those of the caliber of  ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Miracle on 34th Street.’ These are all wonderful stories in their own right. That said, they are lacking in something crucial that has been conveyed in a simple and low budget cartoon produced by Charles M. Schulz. It aired for the first time on prime time back in 1965 - some 47 years ago.

What is it that has made “A Charlie Brown Christmas” a classic among classics and worthy of being placed along side the likes of the great seasonal shows? The answer to that is simple. It is the very short segment of the show where a young Linus answers a highly frustrated Charlie who has just blurted out; “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?” As most know, Linus, with his famous blanket in tow, slowly wonders to middle of the stage. He pauses there, gently calls for single spotlight and proceeds with his brief discourse using only the words of Luke chapter two.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'" (Luke 2:8-14)

He concludes his now famed Scriptural statement by uttering, ”That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

What is your Christmas really all about this year? If these words found in Luke's gospel are not the central focus, then it will be an incomplete celebration at best. If they are, then you are with those who alone can fully experience this so-called “Most wonderful time of the Year” You are among the blessed who realize that the child born in Bethlehem came primarily as the Savior destined for the cross!

Another gospel account further declares how both of these miraculous events work together as one.
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21-24)

We trust that the second part of this great verse describes you this Christmas season and that you are a part of God's family of faith. If not, trust today the God-man and Savior - Jesus Christ. For you, He began His earthly life in that lowly manger so long ago. And for you, He voluntarily ended that earthly life on the cross to redeem you from the power and penalty of sin. In doing so you will be able to, for the very first time, fully know and totally enjoy ‘what Christmas is all about’.

Bill Breckenridge

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Greatest Christmas Carol

As the song-writer put it, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And even for those who may disagree, or are unable to comprehend that, it is true nonetheless.

The season brings with it a vast variety of traditions and practices including, of course, the constant playing of the so-called ‘Christmas Carols’. These well-known songs often carry with them profound lyrics that are even played on secular outlets that normally adhere to the wrongly understood concept of ‘separation of church and state’. Millions sing or hear the words they have often known well since childhood. Sadly many of the same do not notice, or maybe care anything about, the staggering spiritual implications leaving their own lips or entering their ears.

 But it could be argued that the single most profound carol of the season is "Hark The Herald Angels Sing”. It first appeared in 1739 in the collection of hymns and sacred poems written by Charles Wesley. The popular version is the result of alterations by various hands, including George Whitefield, who was Wesley's co-worker. He changed the opening to the familiar one.

The hymn is a stunning statement of theological and biblical truth. Again, countless millions annually parrot its words without pausing to analyze the incredibly clear life-changing message it declares in every stanza. It does so to the degree of revealing the existence of human sin and the full plan of salvation to any who really focus on the eternally significant lyrics found therein.

 Hark! the herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!" Joyful, all ye nations rise; Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic host proclaim "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" Hark! the herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!" 

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord; Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the favored one. Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail! the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King!"

It is hard to imagine how any could not be drawn into some encounter with God through the words of this great hymn and others like it. Tragically many do not, and therefore repeatedly miss we call "The reason for the season.”

But for those who have a personal knowledge of this carol’s greatest phrase, “God and sinners reconciled!", this is indeed the most wonderful time of the year, And the meaning of Charles Wesley’s Christmas masterpiece has since been surprisingly reaffirmed in one of the newer songs whose title alone complements his great work. It is appropriately entitled, “Cradle In The Shadow Of a Cross.” And as Linus said to Charlie Brown in perhaps the most beloved TV special of the season, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”

 “Born to raise the sons of earth, 
Born to give them second birth.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

 Bill Breckenridge