A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 

GN: MERRY CHRISTMAS AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR .
OR 
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES: IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES; WHEN CHRIST CAME 
It’s no longer just ” it’s beginning to look a little like Christmas “. The day we celebrate the birthday of our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ of Nazareth, ‘ The Crucified One ‘, is almost upon us.
A time when there should be ‘ Peace on Earth, and Goodwill to all men’. But instead, for many including the three sisters, aged 15, 16 and 25,  who were abducted, beaten and raped during #19hoursofsavagery, it’s midnight. A very dark  hour in their lives.
So too for the drug addicts and  their families,  in the  seemingly tranquil, even idyllic,  city of Vancouver in the province of British Columbia in Canada. As listening to #djmiller of #RJRBTH last night, we heard the chilling story of the deaths of  600 people over the past eight months. All because of an overdose of Heroin and the new craze, Fentanyl – the drug which reportedly led to the death of the famous pop star Prince.
It’s a dark and dreadful hour for the family members of the  almost 1000 persons who were brutally murdered in Jamaica during this year, and last year, and the year before, and the year before……

A sad reality which must have weighed heavily on the mind of Comminissioner of Police Dr. Carl Williams, when he made the decision to retire early. The big news of the day in my country.
And all across the world,  a time  of uncertainty in the USA for some because of #DonaldTrump ( others are just fine); a dark hour in Syria, in Berlin, in France, in Turkey, on account of terrorism;  a dark hour  in Venezuela, in The Congo in Africa on account of political unrest; a dark hour in the atmosphere as strange viruses crop every so often causing panic and death……
A dark hour for many families facing death and financial ruin as they try to rescue a loved one from the ravages of cancer, and other life threatening and life interupting diseases. A dark hour for many women and children on account of #domesticabuse and even violence and death, as we have witnessed in Jamaica recently.
A dark dark hour for many living in #wrongadresses ‘, in inner cities’ and on ‘ gully banks’, where according to #Etana, ‘ people die there every day ‘, garbage stinks, and ‘ no dollars nah run’, #noprosperity, where injustice often  reigns and hope is a scarce commodity.
And as I ponder these things Martin Luther  King’s  famous quote comes to mind:

” Midnight is a confusing hour when if is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring thing that the church may speak is that no midnight long remains. …..”

Faith in the dawn arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night with the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those that love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfilment”.
And then I recalled one of the most dramatic verses of Scripture in the entire Bible: comparable to Charles Dickens opening words in ‘ A Tale of Two Cities ( and contextually relevant)  ..”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”.
An extract from the OT reading for Christmas Day at my Anglican Church.

” THE PEOPLE WHO WALKED IN THE DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT; 

THOSE WHO ONCE LIVED IN A LAND OF DEEP DARKNESS- ON THEM THE LIGHT HAS SHINNED”.

Isaiah 9:2 

This prophesy, written many, many years before the first Christmas Day!
This then,  is the context in which we need to celebrate Christmas. That God, in His mercy has come on earth, became Incarnate in Christ, so that,  ” The Dawn may come to mankind living in the Midnight hour”.
For as the Scriptures reveal, ” All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. And the ” wages of Sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus”  ( The Crucified One).
And further ” that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the  powers  of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly

 realms “. Ephesians 5:12
A reality which draws our attention to the kind of evil which is so pervasive across the world….and news comes on my tablet about a Libyan plane with many aboard under the threat of being blown up by terrorists….
The kind of evil forces which only the Living God can defeat. And which battle was won on Calvary by the Christchild become the Crucified One.
In this context then,   of ‘ fighting valiantly against evil’, instructions given in my Church at Holy Baptism,  

that I believe that words from Rev. Timothy Keller’s book ” Encounters with Jesus ” comes to mind. From a chapter entitled The Great Enemy; where Keller points out the profound relevance of the juxtaposition of Jesus’s Baptism with His Temptations by Satan in the wilderness.
” Now I have to ask you: If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did not presume to face the forces of evil in the world without a profound knowledge of the  Bible in mind and in heart, how could we try to face life any other way. …..And when we are under attack – tempted to sin, or to be discouraged, or to give up altogether – it is then that we must wrestle the words and promises of the Bible into the center of our being, to ” let the message of Christmas dwell among you richly “, Colossians 3:16..

It will feel very much like a fight indeed. J. C. Ryle  ( The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool in the late nineteenth century) wrote:

“True Christianity is a fight….There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. 

It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money…..

There are thousands of men and women who got to church every Sunday…..but you never see any  ‘ fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self denial, and watching and warring they know literally nothing at all”

So what must we learn from all of this?
1. That, because it is very difficult for ‘ morally upstanding’ persons to comprehend that, without the Light of Christ, they are living in darkness, we must always, link Christmas with Calvary. 
For it only when we heed the words of Christ Himself that ” if I, even I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself”, that the power of God to convict men and women of Sin, and the need for Redemption  ( which means ‘ it creates and satisfies) will be available.
2. That, as  I heard on #TBCFM today, as Rev.  Shuttleworth called for a time of non stop  Prayer to rescue Jamaica from Violence and Crime, #JamaicaforJesus, following the surprise resignation of  Comminissioner Williams, Christians are called to engage in Spiritual Warfare. For this is what Jesus came to do, ” to turn people from the power of darkness to the power of God”.

And as I heard, a former inmate, turned Christian  – set free from evil –  who confessed that at one time he and his mates had planned to rape a female warde, pray today on TBC Radio 88.5 Kingston, declare that ” the Blood of Jesus is against you Satan “, something moved deep within my soul.
So when I arrived at work, this was the central theme of my regular pre- work prayer. Pleading the Blood of Jesus against all evil, in my office, in the town, and the entire Jamaica.  

Finally, this Word from thd Lord, which used to pray in church many years ago, without any warning, came into my mind during an early morning devotion this week.
 “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good work and glorify your Father in heaven”.
Christmas then is really and truly all about The Light. Not the ones which adorn our houses and streets and malls at  this of year. But the Light, which,  in the dramatic opening verses of John’s Gospel, is The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with  God, and the Word was God”

and later…   
” This is the verdict: Light had come into the world, but men loved  darkness instead of  light becuase  their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed …..John 3:19

The challenge then,  that Christmas poses for all mankind, whether wicked gunmen in Chi-Raq, or Aleppo or Kingston Jamaica, or ‘ morally upstanding persons’,  on page 2 in The Observer, on the Red Carpet at ‘ I am Bolt’, or even ‘ spiritually enlightened’  persons like Oprah  Winfrey et al,  or New Age adherents,  is that they are all ‘ walking in darkness ‘, if they are not ‘ in Christ’. Regardless of what they think or say. Otherwise Jesus would not have had to die – for the whole world.
And the challenge for those who ‘ claim to walk in The Light’ , is to fight against the powers of darkness and  with the Power of Holy Spirit, help to set people free from the power of Satan. Thus claiming #JamaicaforJesus and #AmericaforJesus and #TheWorldforJesus.
Peace and Merry Christmas  to you all.

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