By Rev. Dr John Kwasi Fosu
Head Pastor, Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Hamburg
If there is a birth that needs to be celebrated, then what comes to mind is the birth of the one man, Jesus Christ who has eternally changed and positively affected the course of history. The worth and diverse influences of Christ in the life of humanity in their political, social and economic as well as the spiritual dimensions present enough evidence against the opponents of Christmas. The purpose of this write up is therefore not to go into the arguments for or against Christmas. It is however intended to look at how we can celebrate Christmas in order to get the best out of the occasion. This is accomplished through some personal reflections on the pivotal role played by the Wise men (Magi) in the story surrounding Christ’s virgin birth (Matthew 2:1-12).
The Wise at Christmas seek Christ
Matthew 2 continues the account of Christ’s birth by pointing out that after Jesus was born, Magi from the east came seeking Jesus to worship him. The detailed background of these men is not given. However, they are introduced as wise men. It is most probable that they were ordinary men. However, the fact that they sought Christ implicitly show that they are wise. For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. This means that we are to make use of the opportunity of Christmas to seek Jesus. It is also likely that these Magi were astrologers as many biblical scholars believe. Granted that these were so, then they used their profession to seek Christ. Their professions were not hindrances to the belief in the God incarnate. Their ability to discern the times were through the science and technology at their time. In today’s world of technology and materialism where people think that they are the lord of their own lives, lessons can be learnt from these so designated astrologers in their effort to look for the Lord of life and creation. Thus, our work should draw us closer to Christ at Christmas and not depart us from him.
The Wise at Christmas worship Christ
It is so interesting to know that Christmas should serve as the golden opportunity to deepen our worship of God. The Magi declared their intention at Christ’s birth in Matthew 2:2 that “we have come to worship him” and indeed in verse 11 when they saw the child Jesus, they worshipped him. The heart of Christmas is the recognition and affirmation of the Lordship of Jesus. The response, therefore, is to revere, praise and adore Him as the Lord of all flesh. This the wise men did. The Virgin Birth of Jesus should, therefore, remind us of his uniqueness and that our salvation is fully a gift of grace. Thus, in the midst of our joy at Christmas that a saviour is born, let us worship Christ in truth and in Spirit not only in the Church but in the ‘manger’ of our hearts, homes, workplaces and communities.
The Wise at Christmas presents gifts
The total number of Magi is not indicated in the biblical account. However, because the presented gifts were three, namely gold, incense and myrrh, many people think the wise men were three. The implication could be that at Christmas season if you are not a giver, you will not be counted! The wise men gave gifts with pure motives of love and conviction. The gifts indicated the essential offices of Christ as King, Priest and Prophet. Today’s tradition of presenting gifts at Christmas is, therefore, a legitimate effort. Contemporary givers must, however, examine their motives. Do we give gifts to people at Christmas because we are looking for some favours from them? Or do we give because we are under pressure to give so that we would not be seen as social deviants? We need to further ask ourselves, whether we will present that gift to the person if he or she were not to be my Parliamentarian, Boss or Director. The motive for our gifts must therefore not be hypocritical but rather out of genuine love. As we give to the rich and the influential in society, let us also remember the poor and the needy, especially those that we may not be able to get something in return.
The Wise at Christmas discern and obey the voice of God
Many people were alive during the time of Christ’s birth. But not many were able to discern that Jesus was born. The magi were, however, able to know the time. God reveals himself through creation – general revelation and through his word – specific revelation. From the context of our story, we see both general and special revelation at work. The Magi received the leading of God in three major ways in Matthew 2:1-12. We are told that the magi saw the star of Christ, an example of creation testifying to the birth of Christ. Thus, God’s creation and for that matter science should lead us to the existence of God revealed in Jesus. Secondly, God’s word also confirmed the birth of Christ to them when Herod inquired in Matthew 2: 5-6. Later, in verse 12 the Wise men were warned in a dream. The importance of this short exposition is that we are to discern the voice of God in our contemporary world of diverse voices. In contemporary times, apart from God leading us in these areas of creation, the Word of God and through dreams, we are also enjoined to be led by God by being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). God could speak to the wise men through the star and dream because they were in their right mind. As we eat and wine in this Christmas, may we not be out of control that we cannot discern the voice of God.
The Wise at Christmas resist the Devil and avoid his ways
Inasmuch as God guides and leads his children at Christmas, Satan is also at work. In this case, we need to be careful about the inner voice we obey at Christmas. Unlike Herod the Great, may we not be filled by insecurity, jealousy, greed and evil desires to the extent of subsequently shading innocent blood. It is insightful to point out that the Spirit that controlled Herod around the birth of Christ is still in control of some people even including some Christians. This is seen in the lives of people whenever they are overprotective of their so-called ‘thrones’ to the point of resisting the presence of God in their lives and camps. The ‘thrones’ could be their positions at workplaces as managers, teachers, pastors, politicians, lawyers and police officers and so on. Unlike Herod, do not be jealous about the gift of Gold that Jesus received, because he was also to become King. Herod failed to discern that the Kingship of Jesus was different from his. Thus as we celebrate Christmas, do away with the spirit of jealousy of other people’s possessions and gifts, other people’s pleasures and other people’s missions. Determine therefore to resist the devil by being a positive witness and testimony for Christ as you celebrate Christmas.
As we reflect on the lessons from the Magi, may we remember that celebrating Christmas is an opportunity for us to seek Christ, develop an intimate relationship with him and to worship him in truth and in Spirit. Not only that, Christmas should present to us the opportunity to give gifts out of genuine love and pure motives. It is also the time to discern the voice of God in order to obey him and thus avoid the ways of the Devil. It is my firm conviction that when we combine the conviction and confession of our faith to the ethical practices led by the Spirit of God who leads and controls us in the season of Christmas, the world would be a better habitat for humanity. May God bless and preserve you. May God cause his face to shine upon you to impact your generations. And as you enjoy reading this site may you enjoy the prosperity of the Lord in the coming year.
The Blessings of Forgiveness
By Rev. John Kwasi Fosu
Been hurt by others cannot be avoided. This is because by our relational human nature, we have different backgrounds and personality types. And this makes it difficult to please each other. There is a saying in Akan that “edua a eben na etwi.” Since we cannot escape from been hurt by those who are very close to us, the only option left is to forgive. The motivation here is that there is the need and benefits in forgiving others.
Biblical Basis on the Need for Forgiveness
The biblical truth is that God is the God of Forgiveness. It is God’s nature to forgive. Jesus teaches that God is our Father who has power to forgive and is willing to forgive. Jesus also taught about Forgiveness and Practiced Forgiveness. Matthew 6: 14-15 forms part of Jesus’ teaching of his disciples and all Christians about forgiveness. While Jesus was on the cross he forgave all who had hurt him by contributing to his suffering on the cross (Luke 23:34).
Jesus Commands all Believers to be Loving and Forgiving (Luke 6:37) in that the price of forgiveness is always lesser than the price of unforgiveness. Jesus teaches that when we refuse to forgive others, God will also not forgive us.
Benefits of Forgiveness
- Some Spiritual Benefits of Forgiveness
Forgiveness restores your relationship with God. Here forgiveness has rich spiritual blessings which include a guarantee of answered prayers. According to Matthew 6:15 and Luke 6:37, it can be said that it is illogical to expect forgiveness from God and other people unless you are prepared to exercise it yourself. Also, Forgiveness Releases Divine Favour and Restoration. When Job forgave his friends who had offended him and prayed for them (Job 42:10), his captivity was turned around. Also, he received back all the blessings he had lost in double fold.
- Some Physical Benefits of Forgiveness
Physically forgiveness is good for our health. Those who have been hurt badly by someone and respond with, “I Would die before I forgive you!” usually do! Studies show that people who forgive are healthier, have less stress, and have lower blood pressure. Those who refuse to forgive, on the other hand, have increased risk for heart disease, cadisovascular illness, and cancer.
A medical Doctor by name Colin C. Tipping, who works with cancer patients to help them forgive has observed that: “Nearly all cancer patients besides having a lifestyle habit of suppressing and repressing emotions, are known to share a marked inability to forgive.” Their unforgiveness is literally eating them from the inside out!
- Some Psychological Blessings of Forgiveness
Psychologically, forgiveness releases your creativity. The story goes that, as Leonardo Da Vinci was painting the famous Last Supper, he painted the face of his enemy as the face of Judas. That appeared to be a way of getting revenge. But as he did so, something strange happened. He couldn’t finish the picture of Christ. His creativity was stifled. He tried, but couldn’t do it. It was as if he was wrestling in his mind. Suddenly he realized what he must do. He forgave his enemy and erased his enemy’s face from the painting. That very night he finished the face of Christ. Forgiveness released Da Vinci’s creativity, and forgiveness will release your creativity as well.
Some Reflective Comments
Joseph was hurt by his brothers during his youthful and for that matter teenage years. Yet he forgave. Forgiveness brings about freedom though it is sometimes painful. It seems easier to blame others and go on defending our position of being right. Are you hurt because your school mates and teacher have not treated you fairly? Are you disappointed in your father, mother or children because they have not supported you as they should? Are you hurt and thus lonely because your co-workers, friends and spouse and loved ones have not related well with you? Choose to forgive and be free. Before the close of the day, forgive the one who has hurt you in any way even as your heavenly father has forgiven you, and be really free.
Presented By Rev. John Kwasi Fosu – http://www.revjkfosu.com