Published December 28, 2010

Paul's Epistle...

One of the most cherished of the secular Christmas traditions is the gathering together of families to celebrate the day. Close family members gather together with extended family members – often the only time some of these people see each other all year. There's a big meal, exchanging gifts, recalling old times, celebrating new family members and singing beloved Christmas carols.

You're sure to have heard the song again this season that's been a hit since the 1940s — "I'll Be Home For Christmas..." Everybody seems to want to go home for Christmas. Everybody wants to be together with family and friends — especially at Christmastime.

The fact that we choose "togetherness" to celebrate the most cherished holiday of the year means that concept must really be something pretty special.

Wait a minute. Did I say "secular" Christmas tradition? Perhaps we should reconsider.

Who's the author of this whole "togetherness" idea in the first place? God! When He first created Adam and Eve He did so to have fellowship with others whom He had created in His own image. (Gen. 1:26.) He'd even walk with them in the garden. (Gen. 3:8.) God loved fellowship. He still does. His love hasn't diminished. Even when sin came into the world, God still longed for fellowship with His creation – with us.

God had walked with Adam, but Adam sinned. God still wanted togetherness.

God placed His very presence in the tabernacle and later the Temple. But the people sinned. God withdrew -- but still wanted togetherness.

Then, something new -- God's next move of "togetherness" was His most stunning. He came to live among us!

Isn't "togetherness" what Christmas is really all about? Christmas – more than any time since those garden walks – is when God chose to fellowship one-on-one with mankind. God manifested Himself through His Son, Jesus, and "it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell..." (Col. 1:19.) In fact, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." (1 John 4:9.)

Jesus Christ, while on earth in the flesh, was God walking and talking and teaching His people. He and they were together.

Unfortunately, once again, as John 1:11 tells us, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." The people at large did not recognize Jesus as God in human form. They had their own gods – be they emperors, graven images or, most common of all, the god of ego. They had no need for the togetherness this Jesus offered.

Remember Jesus' words? "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34.) One can almost picture Christ longing to gather people close to Him, throwing His loving arms around them, hugging them, embracing them, yearning to be together with them. But so many people back then and, sadly, today as well, will have none of it.

Today we as Christians have a different kind of togetherness with God. Christ promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb. 13:5.) So he sent His Holy Spirit "that He may abide with you forever." (John 14:16.) Therefore, "God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." (Eph. 2:4-5.) And we as Christians are "being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22).

God's desire for togetherness extends to all of His family – all Christians. Christ prayed for unity among believers (John 17:22-23). Christians are not to forsake assembling together (Heb. 10:25) "so that together you may with one voice glorify God..." (Rom. 15:6 NRSV.) "For we are God's servants, working together..." (1 Cor. 3:9 NRSV). This is the togetherness "in one accord" (Acts 1:14) that the world is trying so hard to destroy among Christians. It is the reason why it's so essential that we have Christian friends, Christian coworkers, Christian family for support and mutual edification. Working together we can accomplish so much more for Christ.

As Christians, we have "togetherness" today with Christ through the Holy Spirit. We have "togetherness" today with God through our direct access to Him in prayer.

But God longs for the day when we will be together with Him in a much more tangible way. Someday – someday soon – the dead in Christ will rise. And "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:17).

We will be with Him! And He will be with us! We'll be together! The entire family of God – the saints of all ages – will come together to celebrate the gift of God's grace, His love, His redemption, His forgiveness and, yes, His desire for togetherness. And what singing there will be! The angel choir won't begin to match the song of the redeemed! (Rev. 5:9.) And, unlike our Christmas reunions here, that heavenly reunion will go on forever and ever!

Wouldn't it be nice to really be home for Christmas?

- Paul

Note: This column first appeared here in 2007.

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