Ministers offer peaceful thoughts for Christmas Day
Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 24, 2000
&uot;I’m ready to give.&uot; For the Rev. Chip Davis and other Miss-Lou ministers, Christmas is the season for giving. But in a season also marked by worldwide strife – most notably in the Holy Land where the story of Christmas begins – these ministers hope the meaning of Christmas is not lost amid secular gifts.
For Davis, Christmas is a time of reconciliation. The birth of Jesus Christ was God’s way of reaching out to creation, he said.
In the spirit of Christmas, the concept of reconciliation holds a message for mankind as well, Davis said.
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&uot;The first thing that reconciliation always requires is giving of oneself,&uot; he said. &uot;Reconciliation begins when one side says to the other, ‘I’m ready to give.’&uot;
Perhaps nowhere would reconciliation make a greater difference than in the Middle East, where fighting continues and Christmas celebrations have been canceled or scaled back.
But even with turmoil in the Holy Land, local ministers do not think it has any impact on the meaning of Christmas and may even be a positive thing.
&uot;Persecution has always helped the Christian faith to grow,&uot; said the Rev. John Scott, pastor of Christian Hope Baptist Church. &uot;It really brings the Christian family together in prayer so in that way it is strengthened.&uot;
The Middle East has historical significance but despite what happens in that region &uot;there is more a connection to God almighty than simply making an ancestral claim,&uot; said the Rev. Dennis Flach, pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church.
The significance of Christmas is not diminished no matter where someone lives, Flach said.
And canceling Christmas celebrations does not keep people from taking part in the season.
&uot;I don’t really think you can stop a person who is a believer in Jesus Christ and a follower of his from celebrating Christmas,&uot; Gray said. &uot;You can’t stop the actual celebration that’s in somebody’s heart and in somebody’s life.&uot;
That celebration, said Scott, is the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Christ, a meaning that can be overshadowed at times by the busyness of the holiday season.
Last week Scott had a conversation with someone who reminded him of that meaning.
&uot;(The person) used to think Christmas was about the giving of gifts,&uot; said the pastor of Christian Hope Baptist Church. &uot;But they found out about three years ago that the true meaning of Christmas was the birth of God’s son.&uot;
Scott said he thinks everyone should realize Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ closely followed by other biblical events in his life.
&uot;Although more emphasis may be placed on his birth (at Christmas), it is important to know why the birth of Christ is so important,&uot; Scott said.
The birth of Jesus Christ is important because of the life he lived, his death and resurrection, Scott said.
While he does not celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birth, Derek McNamara, preacher at Covington Road Church of Christ, said the holiday season can hold special meaning for Christians as they remember their Jewish heritage.
The Hebrew word Hanukkah, McNamara said, means rededication and was celebrated by Jews in remembrance of the rededication of the temple after it had been defiled by the Greeks.
Though Christians today are not bound by Old Testament law, McNamara believes the meaning of Hanukkah still holds true today as a time to &uot;remember how God delivered His people and rededicate their lives.&uot;
Some Christians might not feel comfortable celebrating Jewish festivals, but McNamara pointed out the the Lord’s Supper is an outgrowth of Passover, with one difference – Jesus.
&uot;All of the Old Testament and its festivals are leading up to Jesus,&uot; he said. &uot;We can look back at what they meant and see their fulfillment in Jesus.&uot;
The Rev. Pete Herndon of Jefferson Street United Methodist finds it impossible to distinguish Christmas from Christ himself.
&uot;Our lives are wrapped up with the birth of Christ,&uot; he said. &uot;Had Christ not come, there would be no Christmas. Had Christ not come, there would be no Christians.&uot;
Herndon said Christmas has a radically different meaning to the secular world, which places more emphasis on materialism than spirituality.
&uot;Christmas means a lot to the secular world, but it’s all about business,&uot; whereas Christians are more focused on the holiday’s place in their salvation, he said.
In recent weeks, Wayne Gray’s congregation at First Baptist&160;Church of Ferriday has focused on grace and the giving of gifts undeserved and unearned by the recipient.
&uot;I think Christmas is all about giving and the greatest gift ever given, which is the gift of God’s son,&uot; Gray said.
The concept of grace through the birth of Jesus Christ is often difficult for people to grasp, Gray said. And since people tend to secularize Christmas, the meaning of God’s gift is often lost, he said.
Unfortunately, Christmas is reduced to being about &uot;what I’m going to get and what is somebody going to get me,&uot; instead of giving, Gray said.
So churches need to make extra effort to hold Christmas Eve services and experience true worship during the holiday season, he said.
&uot;I wouldn’t expect the world in general to know the meaning of Christmas if the church doesn’t celebrate Christmas,&uot; Gray said.
Flach said he focuses on the long-range importance of Jesus Christ’s birth at Christmas.
&uot;The coming of Christ marked the entrance of God into humanity in an unparalleled way,&uot; Flach said. &uot;While remaining divine he took upon himself a real human body and became man.&uot;
God sent Jesus Christ to Earth to bring hope to a suffering mankind, Flach said.
He came &uot;not to be the physician among the well but to be the physician among the sick,&uot; Flach said.
&uot;It’s good news for fallen people in a broken world who need some hope.&uot;
Emily Whitten and April Wortham are staff writers at The Natchez Democrat. They can be reached at 442-9101 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.