It all comes down to the child.

A recent news report showed certain churches adding a different service to their Christmas celebrations. Called a "Blue Christmas Service", it offers a special time to those who are in grief and mourning, who are lonely and hurting, who, despite the smiles and happiness that appear in many, find themselves overwhelmed with sadness and sorrow. The causes of such pain are many: death of a loved one, sickness, financial ruin, a family torn apart, a house destroyed, a lost job, ridicule and hate from others, no self worth or self esteem, a broken dream. These churches have decided not to forget the forgotten.

But it seems no good deed can go un-criticized. Also in the broadcast were church leaders opposing such services, arguing they are inappropriate at this time when we must concentrate on celebrating the birth of Christ, praising Him, and joining in the joy and happiness. As one minister put it (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I will cry with you, but I will not help you cry. I will mourn with you, but I will not help you mourn. This is a time when we must rejoice and be filled with the happiness of this season."

What a pathetic response, one that is far too often the rule and not the exception. As we gaze upon the child in the manger, we need to understand what all of this is about. There is no celebration for the Son of God that ignores the suffering of His friends or forgets the plight of His followers.

It all comes down to the child...who came from the Father and entered the world (John 16:28) to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10) and to testify to the truth (John 18:37). He would tell us, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life. (John 10:27-28a) If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15) A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34-35)

A few years ago a young husband and father lay in bed, very sick with pancreatitis. So weak that even talking was a major effort, he looked like one who would not be in this world by Christmas. Many began to pray, and over time God brought miraculous healing and strength. Eventually he was able to go home, but was still far to weak to return to work. That's when I got a call from Johnny Vaughn.

We'd been friends a few years and he had become both a great encourager to me personally and very supportive of Ciloa, even arranging one of our seminars for his Sunday School class. Johnny knew of the tough situation this man and his family were going through, and he couldn't sit by. Christmas was coming and he wanted to make sure they would have a great meal. "They have enough other things to worry about," he said. So he came by, picked me up, and off we went to buy a Honey Baked Ham (considered in these parts to be holy food), which we delivered to a surprised and grateful home.

I have to admit, when Johnny called my first reaction was of shame. I'd become so caught up in the hectic time of Christmas...the parties, gifts for family and friends, special music and celebration services...that I'd forgotten about the child. I remembered the angels, shepherds and wise men, but I forgot why He came. I remembered what was said about Him, but I forgot what He told us to do.

After all the running around, all the carols, all the nativities...I'd been a part of only half of what Christmas is all about. But my friend Johnny helped me remember the other half. Thanks JV.

Jesus said that one day He will separate those who follow Him from all others, and He will say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:34-36, 40)

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It is a time of celebration and reflection. A time of joy and sadness. A time of praising God and loving others. A time when we come together to honor the Christ, the Son of the Living God. It all comes down to the child. Remember Him...and have a Merry Christmas!

Take care and be God's,

Chuck Graham

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Ciloa .. Encouraging one another as long as it is called Today! Ciloa is a registered trademark of Ciloa, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. A Note of Encouragement is a copyright interest held by Ciloa, Inc.

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