A Christmas message from The Salvation Army’s international leader, General André Cox.
We pause once again in the busyness of our hectic and frenetic lives to give thanks to God for his wondrous gift. It was the greatest gift ever given to humankind; a gift of healing, wholeness, restoration, love, reconciliation and relationship with the God who created the universe and our world.
The apostle Paul reminds us of how awesome that gift is, writing: ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15)
It is sad how many people fail to recognise and experience the truth of the gospel message—a message of good news reminding us of God’s love and provision for whoever chooses to believe and take him at his word.
At the trial of Jesus, Pilate asked, ‘What is truth?’ (John 18:38). Today, increasingly, we ask ourselves that same question. In recent months, we have had to expand our vocabulary to accommodate concepts such as alternative facts, false news, fake news. Little wonder that we live in a generation that is more and more sceptical and suspicious of any claims of absolute truth.
For many, truth has become relative and subjective; it is what feels right for them or what they choose it to be on any given day or in any given situation.
In fact, subjective approaches to truth are nothing new. People of all generations have chosen to read and interpret truth as they see fit.
How desperately we need to hear and live truth in a world that has lost its moral compass. Some would question the relevance and importance of Jesus and yet we see through the life he lived that God was truly with him. When we look at Jesus, we see evidence of God working in and through him. His life reveals the truth of God’s promise and message for the world.
Living in the confusion of this 21st century, it can be hard to distinguish truth, yet Christmas is about God breaking into our world in the gift of his Son, Jesus. The angels broke into the world of the shepherds to announce the birth of our Saviour and those shepherds then went to the manger to experience the truth of what they had been told.
Jesus came and walked among us, died on the cross that we might be saved, then rose again and ascended to Heaven where he reigns at the right hand of God. We know that one day he will return again to establish God’s reign on earth—and what a glorious day that will be! By returning to the Father, however, Jesus did not abandon or forget us.
He said, ‘I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!’ (John 14:16–17, The Message).
The challenge for us is to allow ourselves the space to be aware of and experience the presence of Jesus—which can be as real as that first Christmas.
We need to be his followers and his disciples in this generation, and he has promised us that ‘If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.’ (John 8:31–32, The Message).
Christmas is God’s greatest gift because we can know truth—truth that is more than abstract concept, a truth that is real and alive, embodied in Jesus and imparted by the Holy Spirit.
‘And we know that the Son of God came so we could recognise and understand the truth of God—what a gift!—and we are living in the Truth itself, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles.’ (1 John 5:20-21, The Message)
I pray that you will experience the Truth this Christmas season.