I was saddened along with so many others this week as we witnessed the horrific situation unfolding in Sydney, hostages held and two killed. Then in the same week, 132 children tragically massacred in Pakistan.
This is frightening and disturbing any time of the year, let alone at Christmas.
The rawness of life and death draws you towards issues of substance, humanity, faith and meaning like little else.
I wonder what your reflections over the past week produced in you? We all felt something. Was it fear, hope, compassion, hate?
Could it be possible that we produce in our life the fruit of what or who we worship?
If the object of our worship is materialism, selfishness, or an angry, vengeful god, then we don’t need to look much further to find that fruit outworked.
However, if we truly know God, we find ourselves familiar with a loving, peaceful and kind divinity and in the same way, that will bear fruit in our lives.
If the fruit of your faith produces fear in you or others, then I would suggest it is not a faith that promotes the heart of God towards humanity.
Christmas reveals to us a facet of who God is! When we refer to Christ as “Emmanuel”, it means “God with us.”
Jesus came to us as depicted in the Christmas story to reveal to humanity who God is.
The Good News in a nutshell is this, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for ALL the people.” (Luke 2:10).
There’s no question the message that God sends to us through His Son Jesus is one of peace on earth and goodwill towards ALL humanity.
Jesus talked about love, but more importantly reveals the power of that love in our lives. He exhibited that love by forgiving His own enemies even as He was hung on a cross. It was personal.
The promise of Jesus and message of Christmas is both universal and personal.
In knowing Him and in turn, being like Him, our personal responsibility is to love and be peacemakers.
Peace between man and God is the primary reason for Jesus coming to earth: not fear, not hate, not selfishness.
The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. So the answer to fear and the presence of peace is the love that comes from God.
When social media shared the phrase “I’ll ride with you” this week, I believe it reflected the heart of the God I know.
No cultural or religious divide can separate a man or woman from God’s love, and in knowing God, nor will it separate another from mine.
This has to be the message that resounds loud and clear to a world that is at times held in the grip of fear: “God loves you and so do I”.
I don’t think we can hear it enough. I don’t think we can demonstrate it enough.
What is your response to God’s love this Christmas?
Let me also take this opportunity in wishing all my readers across 106 countries a very happy, joyful and safe Christmas.
If you have suffered loss this past season, in your tears and grief may you find the ever-present comfort of God. My prayers are with you.
And if you’re looking for a Church to celebrate Christmas, I can recommend mine – visit www.hillsong.com/christmas for service times.
December 19, 2014 at 6:22 am
Great post, Phil.
Like you, I find terrorist acts, especially against innocent children, to be so disturbing. You’re right we have nothing to fear if we know Christ.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friend.
December 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm
Thanks Bill. I have really enjoyed meeting you through your blogs and also your responses to mine. I feel you have taught me so much and yet I know i could learn so much more from you. I was so disappointed when I couldn’t get to visit you on my last trip to USA. You and your family have a wonder-filled Christmas as well my friend.
December 19, 2014 at 9:15 am
Thanks Ps Phil, it is tragic and my heart goes to the families of the lost. Thanks for bringing such clarity and focus through this time. Well said.
December 21, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Thanks Geoff appreciate your words and taking the time to read the blog. Have great Christmas.
December 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm
Thanks Phil for this excellent post. The background to this is horrific but the truths so profound. The fruit of the Spirit is Love, joy, peace … and NOT Hate, fear, worry …
And – don’t we need some love to shine through in this world – love that overcomes anything and everything.
Blessings and Merry Christmas!
December 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm
Thanks Richard and you get a big YES from me I agree “more love needed”. Have a great Christmas and New Year love to your family.
December 20, 2014 at 6:32 am
Thank you so much Phil. So many people have passed away this last week. I am in Auckland and we have had a number of funerals – people have literally had heart attacks and have died. I even witnessed one when I pulled up to my sister’s house to visit and an elderly man had just collapsed on the driveway with his distraught wife standing over him. I attended the funeral of an amazing 57 year old lady from City Impact who collapsed and died in the last week. The key message at her funeral was Fear Not – talking about God being our refuge in times of trouble. Quite fitting to what you have shared here. Thank you for your continued transparency and honesty. I have not attended church for 6 years and I appreciate reading your posts each week. Hope you have a truly happy Christmas with your lovely grandson and family.
December 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm
So sorry to hear about all those who have passed. Its been a tuff week for you alright. Thanks for your very kind words and taking the time to respond. You were always one to absorb the word and preaching, always encouraging. God loves you. I hope you also have a happy and wonder-filled Christmas.