No One Is A Failure Who Has Friends

NO ONE IS A FAILURE WHO HAS FRIENDS!

 “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of the best classic movies of all time. The film first appeared in 1946 starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It has been one of my favorites “forever.” One of the most needed messages in that movie for our day is the statement that the angel (Clarence) made to George, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
A cartoon in a newspaper had the first frame showing a thief who was wearing a mask and his gun was pointed toward a frightened victim. In the next scene the robber is holding out a sack and saying, “Give me all of your valuables!” In the next scene the victim begins stuffing all of his “friends” into the sack.
 Friends are one of our most valuable possessions. Real friends are those who love you in spite of your faults, failures, and sins. Friends are like walls. Sometimes you lean on them and sometimes it is enough just to know they are there. And real friends are “always” there. Friends are a joy to have. “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart and pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel” (Prov. 27:9). This verse indicates that as perfume brings “joy to the heart,” so does the “pleasantness of one’s friend.” 
We all need friends who “cheer us up” when the “chips are down.” Solomon wrote, If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Eccl. 4:10). We need someone who will help us when we are hurt. We need someone who will stay…come what may! I will never forget a statement written to me by a “friend” (close relative) years ago when things were not going well for me at all. The note said, “I don’t know what you are going through, but I want you to know that I am with you every step of the way, no matter where it leads.” A friend loves at all times…whether in triumph, trials, or tragedy. A wise man wrote: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). We all have “fair-weather” friends (?) who split when adversity strikes. But there is a big difference between “fair-weather” friends and “stick together” friends. Someone has said, “A friend is a person who knows all about you, yet loves you anyway.” There was a contest to define the word “friend” and the winning definition read: “A friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”
 “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov.18:24). We may have some friends who get in “low places” with “sad faces,” but they are still our friends. I remember reading somewhere that one of the marks of true friends is that they are there when there is every reason for them not to be. Jesus was known as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19).
I wrote the following poem as I was thinking about my friends.

                                                                   My Friends

My friends are my friends…come rain or shine
I have lots of them…I even call them “mine.”

Folks may say things about them…that don’t have a good “ring”
But what they say to me…never changes a “thing.”

They are friends of mine…and it will stay that way
Others can’t change a thing…by what they write or they say.

If they say things to “hurt” them…no need saying them to me
They may as well go into a forest…and tell it to a “tree.”

I never pay attention…to that kind of stuff
If others do not like them…well, to me that’s “tough.”

You must “know them” to “like them”…and that may sound far out
But I know them and I like them…that’s what friends are about!

There may be a few things about them…I might like to “re-arrange”
As there are things about ME…I would certainly like to “change.”

But it is what it is…because we are who we are!
And if I call you my friend…to me, you’re a “star!”

My friends are my friends…“faults and all”
And I’m right here for them…if ever they call.

Of course, Jesus is my best friend…because He died for me
And He left me an example…of what a real friend should be!

Happy New Year! to all of my friends!

Wayne Dunaway
ohatcheechurchofchrist.org


waynedunaway@gmail.com

OUR SAVIOR CHOSE…The SWADDLING CLOTHES

OUR SAVIOR CHOSE…THE SWADDLING CLOTHES

Introduction: Luke 2:1-12

1. In verse 7 of our text the Bible says, “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn” (KJV).
2. Instead of “swaddling clothes” the NIV has “cloths” and the NLT has “strips of cloths.”
3. The swaddling clothes were part of a sign to the shepherds that Jesus was the Savior. The angel said, “And this shall be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manager” (Lk. 2:12 NKJV).
4. The swaddling clothes serve to signify to the shepherds that Jesus was the one they were looking for and those clothes can also signify some things to us.
5. When we think about the swaddling clothes, and Jesus being born in a barn, I am reminded again that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. (See Isaiah 55:8ff)
6. If it were me, and I was going to send my son into the world, I would have waited until the twenty-first century and announced it at half-time during the Super Bowl.
7. He would have been born in the very best hospital in the world, and would have had the best doctors to help deliver Him.
8. But God’s ways are “past finding out” and I do not expect to always understand why He does things as He does. (Romans 11:33). But I do know that Psalm 115:3 says, “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”
9. And when I think about the swaddling clothes I not only think about God’s ways, but I also think about the Savior’s will. Jesus wanted to be the Babe in Bethlehem. He chose the swaddling clothes.
10. He chose to be “poor” that we “through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
11. On one occasion He said, concerning His death, “I lay down My life that I might take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself…” (Jn. 10:17-18).
12. It is vitally important to understand that THE SAVIOR CHOSE THE SWADDLING CLOTHES. He was not only willing to come and be our Savior, He also wanted to come and be our Savior. (See Romans 12:2)
13. In this study we will observe that in choosing the swaddling clothes:

a. He chose HUMANITY.
b. He chose HUMILITY.
c. He chose HOSTILITY.

Body: THE SAVIOR CHOSE THE SWADDLING CLOTHES

I He Chose HUMANITY

1. Isaiah predicted, long before it happened, that “Unto us a Child is born…a Son is given” (Isa. 9:6).
2. The “Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14) which means “the Word became human and lived here on earth among us”(NLT).
3. Jesus came “in the likeness of men” and was “found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:7-8).
4. But why did He choose humanity? Why did He choose to become a man? Why did He choose the swaddling clothes? Why did He choose to be dressed like that?
5. Because “…He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:17-18).
6. God, as God, cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13). Therefore, He does not know by experience what it is like to live in a human body on earth and be tempted as we are. But Jesus chose to become a human being so that He could understand exactly what it is like and, since He understands, He can help us when we are tempted.
7. Illustration: My mother died June 10, 2004. Before she died I had preached numerous funerals for mothers of others. But never really understood what it was really like until my own mother died. Now I know, at least to some degree, how one feels because I have been there and done that. I know the pain. I know the regrets. I know the feelings. I know the “I wish I had.” Now, I can not only sympathize, I can also empathize in a way that was never possible before.
8. So, this is the way it is with Jesus. THE SAVIOR CHOSE THE SWADDLING CLOTHES and now He knows.

II. He Chose HUMILITY

1. The Bible says “….He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death…(Phil. 2:8).
2. Jesus said, “…for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matt. 11:28-30, NIV).
3. We sing about it. In the song “Why Did My Savior Come To Earth?” we ask,
“Why did He choose a lowly birth…?”
4. Pride is hard to hide. It cannot be denied. And it does abide in all of us to some
degree.
5. As Mac Davis sings, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way. I can’t wait to look in the mirror; I get better looking each day. To know me is to love me, I must be one [“whale”] of a man. O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.”
6. Of course, we change the words around a little. We sing, “O Lord, it’s hard for me to be humble, since I am keeping most all of Your law. I can’t wait to look in the Bible. I beat all that I’ve ever saw. To know me is to admire me, I must be a near perfect man. O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, but I’m doing the best that I can.”
7. Do you see how hard it is to simply admit how sinful we really are? We want to think that we can get at least part of it together. We must contribute something that helps merit our salvation! We think: Jesus had to come, but He only came so that He could show me how to live, and now that I know, I can handle this job all by myself. Jesus really did not come to save me, He only came to give me a law to keep, so that I can keep it and save myself.
8. It is hard for me to be humble. It is hard to simply admit that I am helpless, hopeless, and horrible. It is hard to admit that Jesus is the only hope for me. But our pathetic attempt at perfect obedience (which is the only kind that God will accept as the means our justification) is just that….pathetic. (See Rom. 4:2; Jam. 2:10; 3:2).
9. It is hard to admit that He had to do it for me. But it is His obedience (Rom. 5:19), His knowledge (Isa. 53:11), His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30), His wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30), His sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30), His redemption (1 Cor. 1:30), and His death ( 1 Cor. 15:3) that make salvation real.
10. And, since He was human, He had the same inclination toward pride as we do. He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
11. When HE CHOSE THE SWADDLING CLOTHES, He chose to “humble Himself” (Phil. 2:8).

III. He Chose HOSTILITY

1. Long before the events occurred, the Psalmist said, “The kings of the earth set themselves…against the Lord and against His Anointed” (Ps. 2:2-3).
2. Therefore, Jesus knew that He was coming into a world of hostility. He knew that it was in God’s plan that He come to the earth to be killed for the sins of man (Rev. 13:8).
3. In his sermon on Pentecost, Peter said to those who crucified Jesus, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” (Acts 2:23).
4. Jesus knew that He was coming to the earth to be “stricken…smitten…afflicted…
wounded…bruised…etc., etc.(Isa. 53:4-12). He knew He would, “..pour out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12).
5. Jesus dreaded the cross. He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?
Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this our”(Jn. 12:27).
6. Illustration: Suppose you had to go to a foreign country to fight for our country, and you knew for sure you would be captured by the terrorists, tortured, and then beheaded. Would you want to go? Jesus knew that He was choosing hostility when He chose the swaddling clothes and, yet, He chose them anyway.
7. We sing about it, “Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain, and woe?
Why on the cross be lifted up?” Answer: He loved me so!
8. He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, for the transgressions of His people He was stricken (Isa. 53:4-8).
9. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isa.53:6).
10. It is by His stripes that we are healed .(Isa.53:5).
11. The angel said to the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger”. (Lk. 2:11-12, KJV)
12. THE SAVIOR CHOSE THE SWADDLING CLOTHES to suffer hostility in order to pay the penalty for our sins.

Conclusion: The swaddling clothes were part of the “sign” that pointed the shepherds to Jesus. They can also be a sign to us to remind us that Jesus chose HUMANITY, He chose HUMILITY, and He chose HOSTILITY. And the truths should cause us all the trust Him as Savior (Eph. 1:13), receive Him as Lord (Col2:6&12), and seek to serve Him in life. This Christmas, when we think about gifts, we need to remember that Mary “wrapped” the greatest gift ever given to anyone, and she “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes” that He Himself chose. (Jn. 3:16; 2 Cor. 8:9). Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15)..

Wayne Dunaway
gandpministries.org

The "WAY" in a Manger

THE “WAY” IN A MANGER
And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7, NIV)
The baby that Mary “wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger” was the most important person ever born into this world. He would later exclaim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The “Way” to God was lying in a manger. The familiar Christmas song “Away in a Manger” might serve to remind us that Jesus was the WAY – indeed the only true way – to God. At Christmastime, we wrap gifts and give them to others. On this occasion Mary “wrapped him in cloths” as God’s gift to us all (2 Cor. 9:15). Notice that He is the:         
“WAY” TO SALVATION.  The angel announced to Joseph that this baby lying in a manger would be named “Jesus” because “he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The name Jesus means Savior. The only “way” we can be saved from our sins and go to heaven is through Christ. When the shepherds heard the message of the angel, they reacted with fear, but that fear eventually led them to the “way” of salvation. So it is with us. Some may fear then hear message of the Gospel and to come to the Lord for salvation. You may think that God will not forgive you of your sins, or that you have been too evil for Him to save. But the truth is, if He is calling you to come to Him, there is no way that He would ever turn you away (John 6:37). Then, when you come to Him, you will find that He has the power to forever change your life and make you what you never thought you could be (2 Cor. 5:17). He can take a life of guilt and turn it around for His glory, if you will allow Him the opportunity to do so. We “can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place (Heb. 10:19-20, NLT). 
“WAY” TO SANCTIFICATION. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they lost the perfect standing which they had before God. God’s desire for His children has always been that they reflect His image and glory. While still enslaved to sin, we cannot do that. But Christ came as the perfect reflection of God’s glory (John 1:14; Heb. 1:1-3) and because of what He did, we can be “set apart” – sanctified – to reflect God’s image to the world. In Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). And the ones God has saved, He has predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29-30). As we behold the glory of Christ by faith, we are transformed continually into the image of God by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). This is what sanctification is – being like Christ and reflecting the glory of God – and the only “way” we can do it is to be in a relationship with the one whose earthly life began in that Bethlehem manger.
“WAY” TO SATISFACTION.  When the angel appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, they said, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.” The birth of Christ is GOOD NEWS! Good news for ALL PEOPLE. The reason is, because everyone has been held captive by Satan and his number one weapon: FEAR. The fear of death has held us all in bondage and we have lived without peace and security in our lives. But Jesus is the “Way” out of that. This is the reason He was born.  Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” In Christ the fear of death is gone. We have true, living, lasting security.  
John McNeill told that during his childhood he had to walk a long distance home every evening and his route led through a forest with a large ravine. Reports said that wild animals and gangs of robbers were often seen in that area. Great fear would seize his heart as he made his way past the spooky- looking trees. He recalled, “One night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowing and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a second call. This time I could hear the voice saying, ‘John, is that you?’ It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me.” 
It was a word from John McNeill’s father that brought peace to his fearful heart that night. What we fearful humans need is a word from our Father. A word from Him who is able to expel our fears and eliminate our worries. We have such a word from God: the baby who was lying in the manger is my Son whom I have sent as the Way to deliver you from fear.
Three times God sent angelic messengers to the earth with messages connected to the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus. Each time, they brought big news, news which troubled the hearts of their hearers. However, they also came with a message of peace. Three times angels appeared. Three times they spoke the words, “Fear not”. The “Way,” that was in a manger, is the way for the stranger to be freed from spiritual danger (Read Ephesians 2:13-22).
Wayne Dunaway
ohatcheechurchofchrist.org
waynedunaway@gmail.com

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His
mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she
was found with child of the Holy Spirit”
(Matthew 1:18)

This is the time of year that we think about the birth of Christ in a special way. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the festivities of the event that we lose sight of the real meaning of what Christmas is all about. There are the Christmas trees with all their decorations, the giving of gifts, the parties, and the family get-together. But, through it all, there shines forth the star of hope to a world stumbling along in darkness. Jesus is still the beautiful Star of Bethlehem.

JESUS WAS BORN

Jesus was born of a woman, just like you and I were. But, His birth was different in that it was not His beginning. He always had been, was, and will always be the Eternal One. The Bible tells us that Jesus birth was the Word of God becoming flesh (John 1:14).This is God becoming flesh to dwell among the human race in order that He might reveal Himself to mankind and become our sin sacrifice so we could be saved.

JESUS WAS BORN OF A WOMAN

Jesus had no earthly father. Joseph was only his legal guardian, not his real father. His mother was the virgin, Mary. According to the Scriptures, this woman had never known a man sexually. The power of the most high God came upon her, and she conceived a child of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34, 35). Mary never knew a man sexually until after Jesus was born. It is necessary that we believe in the virgin birth. And it is important to note that Mary was a “virgin” when Jesus was born. It was a “virgin birth.” Many “virgins” have conceived the first time they had sex and had a child. But Mary is the only woman in history who was still a virgin when she gave birth. Isaiah said, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a Son…” (Isa. 7:14). It was a “new thing” in the earth (Jeremiah 31:22).

JESUS WAS BORN TO BE THE SAVIOR

According to Matthew 1:21, the purpose of Jesus birth was that He become the Savior. Many were the accomplishments of Jesus while He was here on the earth. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the broken hearted, and even raised the dead.These are great things, but the greatest of all things that Jesus was born for was to be the Savior of lost mankind. Let’s celebrate the National Holiday that honors the birth of Jesus in the right manner. It is important to know “How” He came, but we must also know “Why” He came. He was “born” so that we could be “reborn” (John 3:3-5).
Wayne Dunaway

ohatcheechurchofchrist.org
waynedunaway@gmail.com

Ebenezer Scrooge and His "Ebenezer."

EBENEZER SCROOGE AND HIS “EBENEZER.”
NEWS TO USE FROM EBENEZER SCROOGE!

Most of us have either heard, or read, or seen a movie about the Ebenezer Scrooge in the “Christmas Carol.” It was written by Charles Dickens and was first published in 1843. It is one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time. We have heard about Ebenezer Scrooge and his business partner, Jacob Marley. We know about Bob Cratchit, Little Tiny Tim, and the “Ghosts” that appeared to Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Eve. We remember the “Ghost of Christmas Past,” the “Ghost of Christmas Present,” and the “Ghost of Christmas Future” that Mr. Scrooge was forced to face. And when Mr. Scrooge considered his past, his present, and his future, he was a changed man. He really understood the real meaning of Christmas and what Christ has brought to the world. He could not wait to tell others about his change of attitude and his new found faith in Christmas!
Today we too need to be reminded of what Christmas is really all about. We need to be reminded of what Christ means to our past, our present, and our future. As we focus on our Lord’s birth, we are reminded of the:

Guilt of the Christian’s Past

1. We all “stood” in a state of “Guilt.”
2. We were all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).
3. We were “by nature the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).
5. We were all “alienated” from God (Col. 1:21), “enemies” of God (Rom. 5:10), and “guilty” before God (Rom. 3:19).
6. We lived “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph.2:12).
7. Paul was “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Tim. 1:13).
8. We can fill in plenty of blanks ourselves. We were formerly: liars, adulterers, fornicators, thieves, robbers, drug addicts, drunkards, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, etc. You name it and some of us have done it!
9. However, because of Jesus, we have managed to outlast our outlandish past, which brings us to our next visit (point).

Grace of the Christian’s Present

1. We once “stood” in a state of “guilt.” Now we “stand” in a state of “Grace.”
2. Christians are “justified by faith” and now have access into “this grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:1-2).
3. As Christians, we don’t intend to be harassed by our past. We have no need to fearwhen it comes to yesteryear. Mistakes were made we don’t deny, but we have kissed our past “goodbye.”
4. There is “now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
5. Therefore, like Paul, we are “forgetting those things which are behind…” which includes sins, bad decisions, misunderstanding etc. (Phil. 3:13).
6. When the “Ghost of Christmas Past” carried Ebenezer Scrooge back to his past, Ebenezer was a miserable man. He said, “Get me out of here!” Why? It was because he had made a lot of bad decisions. He had made a lot of mistakes. He had exemplified a bad attitude. And as long as the “Ghost” kept him in the “past,” Ebenezer was a miserable man. There is no one alive who can thrive (as a joyful Christian) if they let a “ghost” take them back to continually relive past mistakes.
7. It is much the same with us today. Satan may not use a “Ghost” to take us back to our past, but he will sometimes have a “host” of others to do it for him. It may be relatives, friends, Christian brothers/sisters, preachers, elders, or others, who are always bringing up the past to try to make us continually feel “guilty” about past mistakes. And the real sad part of it is that they are often successful. But we need to quit looking at ourselves through someone else’s eyes. Some of these are self righteous “hosts” who only want to carry us back to a “whipping post.”
8. We realize (much more than any of our critics) that at one time we “stood” in a “state” of “guilt,” and rightly so. But we now “stand” in a “state” of “grace” and that is really all we need to know. (By the way, if our “(G)-hosts” who like to bring up our past knew all that we know about our past they could really have a “field day.”)
9. But believers stand in a state of “grace” which is a very comforting “place.” Those who try to move you and me are just “barking up the wrong tree.”
10. Jesus came into our world to take our place, so that we could stand in a state of “grace.” This brings us to our next visit (point).

Glory of the Christian’s Future

1. We once “stood” in a state of “guilt.” Now we “stand” in a state of “grace.” And one day we will “stay” in a state of “Glory.”
2. When Christ appears, we will “appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4).
3. The “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18)
4. We sing about it: “O yes I’ll live in glory by and by.”
5. Jesus came and was laid in a manger, so He could get us out of spiritual danger. He broadened our expansion when He told us about that mansion. We are on our way to glory because we believe His story.

The angel said to the Shepherds in Luke 2:10-11, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”
Jesus really did bring “Joy to the World” of the “believer.” He Pardons the Guilt of the Past, Provides Grace for the Present, and Promises Glory for the Future.

I close with this poem I wrote about Mr. Scrooge.

EBENEZER SCROOGE AND HIS “EBENEZER”

Ebenezer Scrooge is famous,
Throughout the Christmas Season.
He was a sour, selfish man,
Who just would not listen to “reason.”
But then with some “supernatural help,”
He made a tremendous change.
Those who’d always known him thought:
“He sure is acting strange.”
But actually he was converted,
Into a different human being.
It was like a man who had been blind,
Who just suddenly started “seeing!”
That’s the way it is with Christians,
Throughout this entire land.
We’re changed because of Christmas,
When God became a “Man!”
Jesus came into this world of ours,
To be our greatest pleaser.
We, too, have had some “supernatural help,”
So we can raise our “Ebenezer.”

When the Israelites were fighting the Philistines they wanted Samuel to pray for God’s help and they got it. Samuel then selected a stone and named it “EBENEZER” to remind them that God had helped them (1 Samuel 7).
Mr. Scrooge had his own “Ebenezer” or “supernatural help” in making the change in his life.

As Christians, we too have our own spiritual “EBENEZER” that we raise by faith because the Lord has helped us.

Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah.He named it EBENEZER (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” (1 Samuel 7:12, NLT).
“Here I raise my EBENEZER, hither by thy help I come…Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, He to rescue me from danger interposed His precious blood.” (“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Robert Robinson, 1758)

Thank God for Jesus…the reason for every season.

Wayne Dunaway
gandpministries.org 12/23/16

Why I Observe and Celebrate the Christmas Holiday!

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I choose to celebrate/observe the National Holidays or Special Days that have religious connotations like Thanksgiving and Christmas (and Easter) since they are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Some of those who asked me think it is wrong, others have serious doubts about it, and some just did not know either way. The following article will give the reasons why I observe these National Holidays that honor God.

One. According to the Dictionary the word “holiday” means: “1: holy day 2: a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically: a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” The word holiday can mean a “holy day” but, according to the second definition, it can also mean “a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” In America the Thanksgiving Holiday is celebrated more in the sense of the second definition than the first. It is actually in this sense that I observe the day. I do what many people in America do: spend time with the family, eat a Thanksgiving meal, watch football (Detroit Lions versus whoever), sleep, eat some more etc. Therefore, I do not observe the Thanksgiving Day as a “holy day” in the strict sense of the words (holy + day). The National Holidays are not “holy + days” per se, but rather days “marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” That is the sense in which I observe them. I personally do not know anyone who celebrates/observes Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day in the same sense that the Jews observed their holy days in the Old Testament. But since I observe the fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other National Holidays, I see no reason not to observe Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way. I am glad that we have a day set aside to commemorate our freedom and honor our soldiers, and I am also glad that we have days relating to thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is much the same way that I refer to the word Sunday. When I refer to Sunday it is not in the sense of “sun + day” (honoring the “sun”), but rather the first day of the week and on the first day of the week there are certain things I do (assemble for worship, etc.) that I do not do on other days and that is the sense in which I observe the National Holidays.

Two. It is my understanding that when Paul condemned observing “days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10), he was condemning those who were attempting to be “justified” by the law of Moses (Gal. 5:4). He was telling those who wanted to bind the law of Moses, which included “circumcision” (Gal. 5:3) and “days, months, and years” (Gal. 4:10) on Christians as the means of justification, that they had “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). The law of Moses was a “yoke of bondage” and Christians are free from that arrangement (Gal. 5:1). It is my judgment that this is the sense (seeking justification by keeping the law of Moses which commanded observing “days”) in which the Bible condemns observing special days. I do not observe our National Holidays in this sense and I never have.

Three. God gives the liberty to each Christian to be fully persuaded “in his own mind” concerning observing certain days in other contexts and for other reasons. For example, Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day above another” and “another who esteems every day alike.” Then he adds, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5-6). These verses clearly teach that a person can “esteem one day above another” if he chooses to, as long as does not condemn those who choose to do otherwise, and that is exactly what I do. I do not demand that anyone observe National Holidays with religious connotations, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, as I do, but I let each one make up his own mind. I am not going to let anyone stop me from observing these days in the way I observe them, and I am not going to demand that any brother/sister start observing the days unless he/she wants to. I choose to honor the days because I think it honors God for our Nation to have National Holidays that focus on giving God thanks and commemorating the birth of Jesus.

Four. Many (and probably most) of the Christians I know do exactly what those of us who “observe the Thanksgiving Holiday” do. They get together with their families for Thanksgiving meals, churches give out food or make special contributions to worthy causes, and they wish people “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Holiday” etc. If they are not observing the “day” it would be hard for anyone to realize it. It certainly has an “appearance of evil” if it is wrong (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV). The same goes for the Christmas holiday. They put up Christmas trees, give gifts, have Santa Claus, sing carols, change services from Wednesday to Tuesday, give Christmas or Holiday fruit baskets, wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday–which has to be “Christmas” since that is only National Holiday in December that is observed by Christians—and do many other things that those of us who observe the day do.( By the way, it seems a little strange, to say the least, that there are some in our country and, sad to say, even in the church, who think that saying “Happy Holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas” actually changes anything. If I wish someone a “Happy Holiday” in July then I must be referring to “Independence Day” because that is the only National Holiday in July. Therefore, I am wishing them a Happy “Independence Day” whether I like it or not, or whether I actually say it or not, because that is the only Holiday observed. It would seem a little strange to wish them a Happy Holiday, but not be referring to “Independence Day.” If I were opposed to observing “Independence Day” then I would avoid any reference to a “Holiday” altogether. I would also avoid doing the things that others do in celebrating the day—putting up flags, fireworks, etc. The same is true of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I were opposed to observing these National Holidays then I would avoid using the words “Happy Holiday” that refer solely and only to theses days in the minds of Christians in these months. For example, I do not personally observe the Jewish holiday “Hanukkah” (“an 8-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus of Syria”) that is celebrated/observed by the Jewish people in December. Therefore, I do not say “Merry Hanukkah” or “Happy Holiday” when referring to that day. I avoid it altogether. I do not do what the Jewish people do who celebrate/observe the day, because I personally do not observe the day as a Holiday. I purposely avoid doing those things that the Jewish people do, because I do not want anyone to think I was observing it. If other Christians want to observe it that is fine, but I choose to pass. If, as a Christian, I was opposed to the Christmas Holiday I would not: put up Christmas trees and Christmas lights, or send Christmas/holiday cards, or give Christmas gifts, or have Christmas parties, or change meeting times because of Christmas eve or Christmas day, or sing Christmas carols, or give out Christmas/Holiday fruit baskets, or wish people a Merry Christmas” or Happy (Christmas) Holiday, or do any of the other things that those who celebrate and observe the day typically do. Personally, I would either have get in or get out. I would not try to do something that appears to “straddle the fence” or “come down on both sides of the question.” I would either leave it alone altogether, or do like most everyone else does. I would not be comfortable doing the same things that others do, who observe/celebrate the day, and then say that I am not celebrating/observing it.

Five. I know that there is nothing specifically said in the Bible about our country making Thanksgiving and Christmas National Holidays. But neither is there anything in the Bible that specifically says that we should have the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, but I am glad to participate in making the pledge, and I am especially proud that I live in a country that has the phrase as part of the pledge. Also, there is nothing in the Bible that specifically says we should have “in God we trust” on our money, but I certainly support the idea and would personally oppose removing the phrase. In the same way, I am glad that I live in a country that has a day set aside to give thanks to God (Thanksgiving) and a day to commemorate the birth of Jesus (Christmas).

Six. Is there any indication as to what Jesus Himself would do in a similar situation? I believe there might be. Most scholars that I have read agree that the Christmas Holiday originated with men (who wanted to honor God) and not specifically from the teaching of the New Testament. But it seems to me that the Jews could have had a similar kind of holiday as well. It is known as the “Feast of Dedication” or “Chanukah” or “Hanukah.” You will not find it anywhere in the Old Testament. As far as we know, it originated with man, because it did not come about from a direct statement of God found in the Old Testament. It commemorates the deliverance and re-dedication of the temple during the Maccabean period of Jewish history. But what did Jesus do during the Feast of Dedication? (Read John 10:22-24). He evidently did not boycott it. As far as I know, He did not condemn others for observing it. He used it as an opportunity to teach. On a day when the people commemorated their deliverance from Antiochus, Jesus teaches them about Himself. Would it be wrong to do what Jesus did on this occasion? Instead of boycotting Christmas or avoiding it altogether, I see an opportunity to become all things to all men in order to teach them more about Jesus (1 Cor. 9:19-22). In my judgment, it is far better to teach about the birth of Jesus, and what His coming means to the world, rather than to condemn those who honor His birthday even though most admit that no one actually knows the exact day. It is a great time to teach them how people can be honestly mistaken about things taught in the Bible (such as, three wise men, wise men coming to stable, etc), rather than condemn them for things that are not wrong in and of themselves. In a time when many people are thinking about the baby Jesus, I think it is also an ideal time to teach them about the babe who is now the risen Lord!

Seven. Since so many in our nation are trying to take God out of everything, I personally am not going to encourage them by opposing, or neglecting, things that focus attention on thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is also interesting (and disturbing) to me that many in our Nation only want to take Christ out of the Holidays. Some, who would not object to the “Thanksgiving” holiday, do object to the “Christmas” holiday. They would not want to take “Thanks” out of “Thanksgiving,” or “Independence” out of the fourth, or “Veterans” out of “Veterans Day,” or “Those who died for our country” out of “Memorial Day,” etc. But when it comes to Christmas, which is a National Holiday “that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday,” people want the take Jesus out altogether. There was no “room” for Jesus in the “Inn” in Bethlehem, and more and more people are finding no room for Him in our country and even in some of our Churches. I realize that some in our Churches have honest convictions about leaving Jesus out of it, but in my judgment this is one of the things that they need to reconsider, especially among those who have “Christmas” but do not have “Christ” as part of it. There is probably more objection to the holiday honoring Christ (Christmas), than all of the other holidays combined. I wonder why that is?

Eight. There is much more in the Bible about the birth of Christ than most people realize, and what better time to teach it than at a time of the year when people are thinking about it. (By the way, most people are going to think more about His birth during the Christmas season than at any other time of the year, whether they want or not. Some are going to think about it positively and focus on His birth and why he came. Others are going to think negatively and how those of us who focus on His birth should not be focusing on His birth. But most Christians are going to think more about it in one way or the other. Some will look at the manger scenes and Christmas things and think that it is, “A Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Others will see the same scenes and think that people should not be thinking about manger scenes and Christmas things, and they will think about how they should not think about it at all. But, regardless of the reason, most will think more about it in one way or the other). I usually speak/think about freedom during the fourth of July week. I usually speak/think about memorials during the week of Memorial Day. I usually speak/think about Thanksgiving during the Thanksgiving Holiday week. So why wouldn’t I speak/think/sing about the birth of Jesus in December. In my judgment, there is no better time of the year to teach about who He is, how He came, and why He came (especially concerning His birth) than at Christmas time. Furthermore, most Christians I know believe it right to preach about the birth of Jesus any time we want to. Therefore, I always want to preach about His birth at Christmas.

Nine. One of my main reasons for observing and supporting the Christmas Holiday is the attention that Jesus gets. I watched on TV the “Disneyland Christmas Parade” from Orlando, Florida. It was a great parade and one of things I was impressed with most was the “Christmas Songs” focusing on the birth of Jesus. People from all races, backgrounds, and religions watched and listened as the performers sang about Jesus and His birth. I saw some of those in the audience singing along with the “Stars.” They sang: “Away In A Manger” and they called “Jesus” the “little Lord Jesus.” They sang, “O Holy Night” and they said, “It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” There were other songs that put the emphasis on Jesus and His coming into the world as well as why He came. Whether the singers were sincere or not is not mine to say. But like Paul said, “whether in pretense or in truth Christ is preached and I therein rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18).

Ten. The following is part of what Dale Jenkins published on his blog.

Regardless of how you feel about how Christmas and other holidays should be celebrated (and there are all sorts of shades and arguments on this one. The most interesting one I heard said we shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving – yes, Thanksgiving – because Christians should be thankful all the time) it would seem plain foolish to overlook the stats below and not capture this moment for the Lord and His Cause:
Top Five Times People Are Open To Considering Matters Of Faith…
#5 – After the birth of a baby (28%)
#4 – After a natural disaster (34%)
#3 – After a major national crisis i.e. 9/11 (38%)
#2 – During the Easter season (38%)
#1 – During the Christmas season (47%)
Chris Robison
Director
YMCA of Scottsville & Allen County
237.5704

Eleven: Since Christ is “in season” during the Christmas Holidays why any of us would not want to take positive advantage of that is hard to understand and openly opposing it is even harder–especially in our culture and the way our Nation seems to be headed. But it is probably still true that the “children of world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lk. 16:8). Why do I say that? Because the “children of the world” in our generation today seem to take advantage of every opportunity to oppose God, while the “children of light” neglect and even oppose what seems to me to be excellent opportunities to magnify the Jesus and what He has done.

Of course, I am not saying that other Christians have to agree with me on these matters, but these are my personal views as to why I choose to observe and celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays.

Finally, I hope all of you have a “Happy Thanksgiving” and a “Merry Christmas” or, if it makes you feel better……“Happy Holidays.” Of course, if you don’t like either greeting, I wish you a “Happy New Year”….there is nothing “religious” or “God honoring” about that in the minds of most. Blessings!

Wayne Dunaway
waynedunaway@gmail.com
ohatcheechurchofchrist.org