By: Alistair Brown
I am frustrated and saddened by the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’. I find myself telling everyone ‘Merry Christmas’ to emphasize that the season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I am not winning over the retail or media worlds yet.
Fundamentally our Christian witness, at this time of year or any time of year, is not about phrases but about living and speaking for Jesus every day. No slogans or programs substitute for Christ-centered lives, for the Holy Spirit breathing through us, for values and purposes which are God-honoring, for discipline and sacrifice which counters the self-centeredness of our world.
As a young Christian I saw that in my really old friends (probably in their 40s!) Sallie and Charlie. They were relatively poor in money but very rich in God’s grace. Week after week I would hear Sallie refer to conversations about Jesus with neighbors, with people she had met in a store, with the postman or garbage removal people. “How do you manage that?” I’d ask. She had no special training, no tools, and lived in a very secular area. All she could say was, “When Jesus is so much part of your life, how can you not talk about him?” Because she was so sincere, and her life so real and her nature so kind, people listened. That couple’s grace and godliness has challenged me many times down through the years. They did not have to stress any phrase for people to know that for them Christmas was all about Christ.
I am better at being like that than I was, but I still have a long way to go.
This Christmas I am certainly thankful. I am very thankful for my wife and family. Alison and I will see our children and grandchildren during a vacation back in the UK (where it has been almost as cold and snowy as in the Chicago area). I am very thankful for my colleagues and the trustees at Northern Seminary. They are so committed and have worked so hard. I am very thankful for the stunningly good students we have at the seminary, men and women dedicated to God and following his calling. I am very thankful for fantastic supporters who provide financially because they see what God is doing in preparing a new generation of leaders for his church.
This has been a wonderful fall term at Northern Seminary. God is doing something very special among us. It has only just begun for we sense much more ahead. There are no smooth paths, but there are right paths and God is speeding us along those ways. It is a time of immense creativity, and we are ensuring our systems keep up with the changes. It is a time of a new work of God, and we are thankful for it and humbled by it.
Above all, we are thankful for the greatest gift of all, God’s Son. Christmas is not just a happy holiday, but a moment to pause, to worship and to give thanks that God so loved us he gave his only Son. Without that gift we would all be lost. Thank God he came, that he died for us, that today he calls us to himself. Have a wonderful Christmas.