Why Can’t We Cancel Christmas?
by Rev Charmaine Braatvedt
10 November, 2013
Haggai 1:15b – 2:9
The book of Haggai was written in 520 BC during the postexilic period of Israel’s history. It is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. The book of Obadiah is the shortest.
Haggai’s literary style is simple and direct and he succinctly manages to pack in loads of spiritual commonsense in what is a very short book.
The content of the book is a report of four messages in which He encourages the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem which had been left in ruins by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
The Hebrew people were then taken to Babylon. After a period of about 17 years some 50,000 Jews were returned to Jerusalem (under the leadership of Zerababbel and Joshua son of Johozadak ). They soon started rebuilding the ruined temple. However internal and external political conflict brought a halt to the rebuilding of the temple and spiritual apathy set in for 16 years until Haggai the prophet came along and roused the leaders and the people of Judah from their spiritual lethargy and encouraged them to continue working on the temple so that people could worship God in accordance with his commands.
Haggai’s encouragement along with the encouragement of another prophet God raised up called Zechariah, resulted in the work of the temple being once more undertaken and the reconstructed temple was completed in 515 BC.
Haggai’s message is simple and profound:
Be strong and work
I am with you
As my Spirit has been with you before it will be with you now.
Do not fear
In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth the sea and the dry land
When I do this all nations, all peoples will want to come to this temple and contribute to its ministry and mission
And this house will be filled with glory of my presence (Shekinah)
I will make my inexhaustible resources available to you as you build my temple.
This is more than merely construction a building it is a spiritual work which will ultimately touch lives with my grace and peace.
As I read this passage I felt a quickening in my spirit a burning in my heart and a compulsion. I felt God was impressing on me a prophetic word for us here at Holy Trinity through the words of Haggai.
November marks the start of what we have come to call the Christmas Season.
As we hit the 1st November I felt myself groan inwardly.
What was that all about?
On reflection I sensed that I was guilty of some spiritual apathy and lethargy.
As I prayed about it , I found myself saying to God
“Lord it’s the thought of a seemingly endless stream of services and events that propel the Church through November and December into Christmas, leaving us feeling exhausted and depleted. These events are in competition with so many secular events that it feels as though the weight of them falls on a few of us while the rest run for cover lest we make even more demands on their time and energy when they are already busy. Can’t you just cancel Christmas for one year?
Now here’s the answer I believe I received from the Lord:
There are peaks and troughs in the year. I have given my church a work to do. Be strong and work. I will be with you. Work with me and I will fill this house with splendour and glory. December is the time when I will shake the heavens, I will be generous and give you many opportunities to exercise the commission I have anointed you with. I will send people and I will send resources and I will send the story of my son coming into the world to save my people. I will open their hearts to spiritual matters. I will give you my silver and my gold, I will give you the resources with which to rebuild my church here in Devonport. What will you do with all I have given you?
As I looked at the church diary I started to see it in a different way. No longer was it filled with irritating events and services that made my week busier than it already is, suddenly it was filled with sparkling exciting creative opportunities to do the work that Jesus has called his disciples to do “Go to all the nations and teach what I have taught you and give them what you have received from me (my paraphrasing).
I further discovered that those opportunities were fun and wide open. I felt my energy levels rise and I got all excited. God wants to do something quite wonderful here and he is calling on his church, you and me, to partner with him as he does it.
Then I looked around and realised that I needed to share this insight that god had given me with you my faith community, so that together we can grasp the opportunities, seize the day, make hay in the December sunshine, ride the evangelical wave that God is sending….. and then hopefully rest in January.
Friends, Church family, fellow workers in God’s vineyard, I believe that God is speaking to Holy Trinity through the words of Haggai this morning. He is saying:
Be strong and work, I am with you, As my spirit has been with you before it will be with you now. Do not fear. In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth the sea and the dry land. When I do this all nations, all peoples will want to come to this church and contribute to its ministry and mission and this church will be filled with the glory of my presence, Shekinah.
I will make my inexhaustible resources available to you as you build and extend my church. This is your spiritual work which if done well and joyfully will touch lives with my grace and peace through what is said and done here. And it will make a difference for eternity.
Are you in or out?
And the people said Amen.
So let’s get practical then.
What are we trying to do here?
We are trying to reach out to a spiritually hungry community with the bred of Christ. We are acknowledging that here is one solution to the world’s problems and that is Christ. However, there is no one way to present that solution because people are all different.
Why is this a good time?
Because around Christmas people are more open spiritually and emotionally than at any other time of year. They are more reflective as the year draws to an end and their hearts are softer as families gather than at any other time of the year. It is easier for people to get their children, parents, friends to church than at any other time in the year.
What are the evangelistic opportunities open to us?
What are the difficulties?
One or two or three people cannot do all this. However if we all make an enthusiastic contribution in line with our gifting, then all of these will sparkle like jewels in the crown of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit attract people to him. Make serving in this church a priority in December. I know time is in short supply but let’s face it so often how we spend our time reflects where our priorities are.
It is sacrificial yes but do we dare turn down the opportunities God places in our laps to bear witness to his gospel?
Dow we say to God: No I am too busy I don’t feel like it?
What are the specific tasks?
Singers . Our biggest gap this year is the absence of a choir to carry the carols at Christmas time.
Pastoral care etc
Do you r best in whatever ministry you are currently involved in.
However the greatest contribution you can make is to attend the church services and come to the events like Amahl that have been arranged to attract people to this Church and to bring your friends and family.
Catch the vision, volunteer, voice and vibrate with the energy of the Holy Spirit.
It is worth remembering that the soil we prepare in December by way of creating a joyful meaningful content to Christmas through what we do, will be the soil in which we plant the seed s of the Alpha course next year during Lent.
As people come here over the Christmas season, let all we say and do excite their curiosity and interest in God and Jesus so that when we come to running the Alpha courses they queue up to register!
Let’s work with the Holy Spirit to grow the church and let’s start that process by striving for excellence in December!