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As Christians, we are all familiar with the Nativity Story. But far more than just a seemingly quaint account about the birth of Christ, there is a richness to this momentous event, and it yields lessons that we can apply to a wide range of life experiences. Pastors Justin and Jacquie Ryan share about 5 different seasons we can discover in the Christmas narrative.
Countless times when it comes to Christmas, we hear the phrase “He is the Reason for the Season.” It is a gentle reminder to many not to get caught up with Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, and the whole shebang of little elves. It is so important for us to remember that Christmas is not about marshmallows, roast chicken, and fruitcake although we all look forward to that. The essence of it is that we should always remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; a reminder that God sent His Son into this world to demonstrate His power, die for us on the cross, save us from sin, and to give us His Holy Spirit.
As we have read the Christmas story countless times or probably even played a role in a Nativity Play as a kid, I would like to share with you a different angle of the Christmas story, as we look at 5 Seasons we can discover from it. Our prayer is that it will give us the courage to step into 2021 with hope and to have a sense of awareness of what we need to do to embrace change in our lives.
Matthew and Luke both documented the story of the birth of Jesus and this is the central event of what we are going to look at. When the Angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was pregnant through a conception by the Holy Spirit, it was not something that was easy to comprehend as it was illogical from a human perspective. However, knowing that this was of God, her response even amid her uncertainty was, “I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38). This we relate to a Season of Receiving.
There are times in our lives when God challenges us to do things that we may not understand. We can only reliably predict what will happen in two hours, but God has already seen 20 years ahead of us. Like Mary, we need to just receive what God is giving us even though at times it may not be what we envisioned or planned for our lives. God may challenge some of you to receive a job offer or a career switch in 2021. As long as it is God’s leading, and not your emotions, receive it in faith. I am sure that this was not Mary’s plan. How was she going to explain it to Joseph? But we see how God took care of everything. God can do the same in your life. If you are in a Season where God is challenging you to Receive, do it in faith.
Mary later goes to visit Elizabeth and we find both women are overjoyed. If you notice, they did not have a baby shower, invite the whole village, or have a gender reveal party!! No, they decided to lift their voice and give thanks to God. In Luke 1:39 and 42, it says that Mary hurried to Judea and when she met Elizabeth, she began to sing and praise God with a loud voice. The two happy pregnant women lifting their voices to sing praises was surely a party that moved God. God may sometimes remind you that you need to move into a Season of Thanksgiving.
Never take any of the blessings for granted. Be thankful for all that God has done and is doing and always remember that everything you have received is not by the work of your hands or through sheer luck, it was from the goodness of God. What are the countless blessings you received in 2020 despite COVID-19? Have you thanked God for health, food, protection, and most of all, for life? It is a good time to do it now.
God not only prepared Mary for what was to unfold, but He also prepared Joseph. The natural human part of Joseph had already planned that the best thing to do was to divorce Mary (Matthew 1:19), but God sent an angel to speak to Joseph and to guide him along the right path and to make a decision that would please God and not what was logical to man. One of the most difficult seasons we all go through is the Season of Obedience.
We feel we want to do one thing, people around us tell us to do the same thing, but God says otherwise. Obedience to God sometimes does not make sense, but the reward of obedience is so much better than the consequence of disobedience. Joseph obeyed what God wanted him to do. It was not easy, but he did it. Are you in a season where God wants you to obey what He is saying but it has become a struggle for you? Here is some food for thought – do not go outside of obeying God to get something because you will have to stay outside of God to keep it! As you move into 2021, let us stay in the center of God’s will in all things.
As we move on in the Christmas story, we see how the angels appeared to some shepherds in the field and told them about the birth of Jesus. They did not call for a meeting of the shepherds over a BBQ and vote to see if they should go or not. There were no questions asked about who this baby was or if what the angels had told them was true. The Bible says in Luke 2:15 that “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened’” and then later the keyword in Luke 2:16 says “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger”. The fact that they hurried off shows us the next season that we sometimes need in our lives and that is the Season of Urgency.
There are some things we need to do in life, without any delay because God has allowed certain events for such a time as this. There is a window of opportunity that God opens, and we need to rush in and embrace the blessings and miracles that are ready for us. In business, they say a window of opportunity is a short frame of time in which we should act to have the desired outcome. If we wait too long, it may be too late. Imagine if the shepherds waited a week, they would have missed the opportunity to worship the King of Kings. Are there situations in your life where God has been telling you to ‘act now’, but you are telling God ‘not yet’? If God says Go, do not say No. You may be in a Season of Urgency.
Countless Christmas cards show the 3 wise men who also came to worship Jesus at the manger. This we know is biblically untrue as they had to travel a long way and by the time they arrived, Jesus was a child living in a house. Bible scholars say he was about 2 years old (Mt 2:11). Imagine travelling for close to two years to find this child. Did they have the thought of giving up and turning back? Perhaps they got tired and thought it was not a good idea. The human part of us may sometimes get excited to do something, but when we do not get instant results, we sometimes tend to question the decision that was made. I believe more than ever, especially in all that has happened this year, God wants to move us into a Season of Perseverance. Let us not give up when things get tough, as we have probably heard the saying before “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. Let us not give up – we do not slacken, we do not withdraw, and most of all, we do not take a step back.
Stepping Into 2021
No matter how hard 2020 has been, the fact is we are still here now, able to celebrate Christmas and step into 2021. That in itself is a miracle. Will it get better? Yes, it will. Will there be challenges? Yes, there will. Do we give up? No, we do not!! Let us celebrate the gift of Jesus in our lives and look with hope towards 2021 for He who promised is always faithful (Hebrews 10:23). What Season are you in now? May we encourage you to continue to keep your eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of your faith.
About the Ryans:
The Ryans have been involved in the mission field for more than a decade. Recently, the Lord has led them to found Issachar Academy where they provide training specifically for missions in a hospitable environment. Besides missions, the Ryans also help Christians recognise and move in their seasons with God. To find out more about their ministry, you may visit their website at http://onevm.net/
We went on a mission trip to Cambodia in 2018 with Malaccan friends Michelle and her daughter Annabelle and got to know their unusual family. They home-school all their children and besides academic subjects, they also teach them skills to earn money for their wants and needs such as going for holidays. Annabelle shares her views on how these skills are imparted…
God’s Everlasting Grace. My Daughter Has Scoliosis! by Lynn Foo, Contributed by Damansara Utama Methodist Church Probably nothing can ever come close to a mother’s