Words of Hope and Faith for the Weary

The Country Church-Did Christmas Start Here?

The Country Church-Did Christmas Start Here?
God is not in a building, day, or in a religion. He dwells within our hearts, and He knows each of us personally.
With the holiday season upon us, in our western culture, we experience mainly two varieties of Christmas.
There is the Christmas that reviles in the grace and mercy of God, and we remember what Jesus has done for us. This Christmas is depicted in a manger scene, Christ’s birth, and its portrayal is of a tiny baby wrapped in blankets and laying in a barn. He is surrounded by his parents, three men, and several barnyard animals. We give gifts to each other, supposedly from the heart, and on this day happiness and joy is in the air.
Next, there is also Xmas which tries to enforce a belief that the day is just another holiday we celebrate. A short chubby man with a long beard gives us treats and gifts which we have desired to obtain the whole year. He puts the fancily wrapped favors under a beautiful tree decorated with elaborate bobbles and lights. In this Xmas, you must have a lot of money to buy expensive gifts or the day is no fun at all.
In my opinion, I choose to have a fondness for the former belief rather than the latter, but I believe that Christmas is every day in God. Daily we need to remember the Lord Jesus, His birth, death, and resurrection. Because of the precious gift of God, we have all received the opportunity to become His children, and as a child of God, regularly we receive His incredible grace, mercy, and blessings.
John 3:16-18 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.”
Regardless of what trials are going on in my life, when I open my heart, the love of God and peace beyond understanding envelops over me. Through my faith and belief in God’s love for me, His wishes to bless me, and His desire for good in my life makes me always a conquer. I did not always know this. I want to tell you a story.
As a child, I believed in Jesus, but I did not know Him. In the small town that I grew up in, I was a part of a group of neighborhood children that attended church some Sundays, Easter, and Christmas. Our parents, still quite young then, either worked, slept in from partying to hard the previous night, or cared much more for our salvation than they did their own. So about ten of us, ages 5-10, were made to dress in our Sunday best, meet at the corner of the street, and then we walk a couple of blocks to the local wooden shack we called a church.
The building had no carpeted floors or nicely finished pews; those there early enough were lucky to grab up the hard-wooden foldout chairs, but the rest of us sat on wooden benches which wobbled when you sat on them. Sometimes they tipped over causing the people that sat on them to fall backward when someone heavy sat down too hard on them. There were no beautifully colored glass windows; it had no windows; no marble statues of Jesus on the cross or Mary holding the toddler, and no choir or band to sing praises to the Lord.
The preacher preached from behind a plain wooden podium, made by him I imagined because of its shoddy workmanship. It leaned to the side and too looked to almost fall over when he reached down to turn the pages of his bible. The only thing that signified it as being a church was wooden handle paper fans with pictures depicting Jesus and the disciple. The old ladies waved these about quickly to cool themselves when in the unairconditioned building grew too hot inside.
Not only were forced to go, but we went hoping that by attending church, we would attain God’s grace for another season and free ourselves from his harsh punishment. We did not want God to strike us with hard luck, kill us, or give us a terrible sickness as the church people told us he would do. He was a horrible God, and who would want to follow Him. Nevertheless, we shouted with the others for the Holy Spirit to come down upon us, and thought ourselves genuinely fortunate if someone fell backward and started wiggling on the floor, for then we knew that the Holy Spirit was with us. Someone was receiving an answer to their prayers.
Aside from hoping to see someone fall out, which I will admit we found hysterical, we sang songs of unbelief, listened to fire and brimstone messages, and at the end, now thoroughly convicted that we would go to hell, we put our nickel in the tatty straw offering basket. Of course, most of us received a quarter from our parents to put in the offering, but in those days, money and candy were sparse, so we used twenty cents of their hard-earned money to stock up on penny sweets that would last us for the rest of the day. Hopefully, we lived until the next time we attended church because we swore to God we would give the whole quarter next time.
In the church of my youth, there was never any respect for God as a loving heavenly father, and going to church was just another tedious chore that we had to do on Sunday and holidays. We never expected him to give us the desires of our hearts.
Over the years, not truly knowing the love of God or even who Jesus was, I lost the small church mentality and stopped playing the game. If my life depended upon my goodness and occasionally going to church, He should have taken me out when I was a child, because I was done. Since nothing terrible happened to me, I lost my fear of Him.
God’s Wonderful Gift Stayed with the Wandering Me
I loved to drive, and for most of my life, I drove a sports car. One day in my youth, my brother and I were out for a drive, and very impatient I darted out quickly in front of a moving semi-truck pulling a trailer.
“Hit the gas,” my brother yelled at me.
Frozen in terror, I stopped in front of the vehicle and watched the truck speed directly at the side of my car. It was coming too fast, and I was directly in its path. My small two-seater car would be smashed to bits, and I could only think about the death of myself and my brother. But, as if out of my control, my foot slammed down on the gas pedal and the car lurched forward quickly, the truck swerved to the left, barely missing the rear end of my vehicle, and came to a stop without jackknifing. The driver gave me a negative motion with his middle. Embarrassed because of my stupidity, I pulled off after he started yelling at me. He was all right, and there was no damage to the truck.
“Stupid,” my bother called me afterward, “those trucks need a lot of time to stop.”
Was it luck, I think not. I could not press the gas pedal because terror held me captive at that time. God was there, He never forgot about the child that once attended the rickety old church.
13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
What a glorious thought, God is watching over me. The remarkable fact is, there is nothing special about me, and if you have made Jesus your Lord, He is watching over you as well; even if it does not seem like it now.
Christmas is constant and not just a day of the year to celebrate Jesus. God gives His gift of love daily.
John 3:16-17 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.