George Whitefield was greatly used by God as an evangelist in North America in the 18th century. He was born in 1714 and died in 1770. Halfway through his relatively short life, we find this quote in his diary, written in North Carolina on Christmas Day 1739:
"Oh, how it will rejoice me to hear that some poor soul this day was born again. Then it would be a Christmas Day indeed!"
I find myself greatly challenged by his perspective. I find it all too easy to enter wholeheartedly into the worthwhile joys of family celebration, and yet fail to keep before me the fact that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
The celebration of Christmas dates from the fourth century AD when Christians replaced the pagan celebration at the time of the winter solstice with the proclamation of the Incarnation. When the Anglican Church (and Whitefield was an Anglican) established the order of worship for Christmas Day, they began by focusing first on the mystery and then on the history.
Once again, I find that helpful and have resolved that in our celebrations, both here at church and in our home, I will try and turn the minds of those under my care to the immensity of it all — "that in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself." Or as Paul puts it when writing to the Corinthians, encouraging them to be generous in the work of the Gospel: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich."
As we reflect on the riches that we received at the first Christmas, we will see the world in a different light. When C.T. Studd, as heir to a substantial fortune, came to terms with the extent of God's generosity, he declared, "if Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." As the year closes, let me thank you for all that you have given to support this ministry of seeing men and women rooted in the Word of God. May I encourage you to consider one more generous gift which will allow us to look to the new year with a sense of humble expectation?
With my very warmest Christmas greetings to you and yours,
Category: Letters from Alistair