In seventh grade I was given an incredible opportunity to share my faith with almost everyone I knew. The school newspaper interviewed me. The one question I was asked: “What does Christmas mean to you?” I explained that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth, and that he had changed my life, and that he is the answer to all the world’s problems — and I mentioned what a great opportunity Christmas is for Christians to both celebrate and witness to others about our Lord and savior.
I was quite proud of what a great job I’d done, and how I’d not been afraid to share my faith in front of everyone at school.
At home, though, I received a 15-minute lecture on why our church doesn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Many an argument has been had in our congregations, between our congregations, and toward other congregations, concerning Christ’s birth and the celebration of Christmas.
That’s sad, considering Jesus’ birth should be the single most unifying event of all time, for all people.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing hymns to your name.”
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the Gentiles will hope in him.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What I’ve learned:
- Paul desires followers of Christ to have unity.
- God is able to give his followers a spirit of unity.
- We can together glorify God with one heart and one mouth.
- When we have one heart and one mouth, it glorifies God.
- I should accept other Christians in the same way Christ accepted me.
- When Christians accept one another as Christ accepted us, it brings praise to God.
- God is merciful to all peoples through Christ.
- As a result of Christ, Israel will praise God among the Gentiles.
- As a result of Christ, Gentiles will praise God with Israel.
- As a result of Christ, all the peoples of the earth will praise God. There will no longer be a need even to differentiate between Jew and Gentile. We will be united as “people” in our praise.
- From the long dormant line of King David will be born a ruler for all nations — Jesus.
- The Gentiles will put their hope in Jesus.
- The same God in which the Gentiles hope will fill them with joy and peace, as they give their lives to him.
- The end result will be abundant hope for the Gentiles, as they join the Jews in praising God with one heart and one mouth, united in Christ.
- It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this will come to be.
What I’m thinking about:
- I’m expected to accept others as Christ accepted me. I was a hopeless sinner when Christ accepted me — and he not only accepted me, but gave me life and hope. What requirements are we putting on other Christians, in order to gain our acceptance? Do we offer life and hope — or debate and judgment?
- Christians bring praise to God when we accept one another as Christ accepted us. What do we bring him when we fail to do so? What about when we do the very opposite?
- Christmas is thought of as a time of peace and joy. In this text, peace and joy are related to trusting God with our lives as we practice unity with other believers. What might we do to bring greater peace and joy in this season? What might I myself do?
- If the Holy Spirit desires to bring unity and hope to all people, what can I do to be in step with him?
- Christ’s birth is mercy for all people.
- Christ’s birth means hope for all people.
- Christ’s birth makes unity possible for all people.
Almighty God in whom I hope, I pray that you will bring unity in your believers on earth, so that we may praise you with one heart and one mouth. May you be glorified in our love for one another. Forgive us, Father, for all the times we’ve been argumentative, judgmental, and bitter with our brothers and sisters. Help us, as individuals, to accept one another as Christ has accepted us. Help us, as churches, to embrace one another as Christ has embraced us. Empower us through your Spirit to put all of our trust in Christ Jesus, and not in our own doctrines and divisions. God, give us joy and peace… in this season, and in all seasons. Amen.