In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 9-14)This is the Christmas story according to John. This is the reason for all of my descendants and many other relatives being Christian today.
Bessie received Christ in 1935 at the age of 15 at a revival meeting in Edmonton, Alberta. I received Christ on October 18, 1947, at a Youth for Christ meeting in a Presbyterian church at the corner of North Avenue and St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland. It was after a football game my second year at the Naval Academy. I had turned 20 on October 6.
The message preached that evening was by a Filipino evangelist, Gregorio Tingson. His text was Psalm 40:1-4: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”
After the meeting was over, Willard Peterson (class of ’49) took me to another room and introduced me to the Father through Jesus Christ. I wanted to sing for joy! If you do not know the Father, please read the next five chapters of the Gospel of John.
2016 was an exciting year for the U.S., with much joy and much dismay. The first instance was Chicago winning the World Series in an extra inning. There was more joy than dismay. On November 6, there was joy and dismay. Both were intense. I think the “dismay” side had it more; they were dismayed more than the Trump followers were joyful.
My favorite Christian carol is Isaac Watts’ “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.” Watts did not write this for Christmas day. He did not believe in celebrating Christmas. Let’s look at it. Verse 3:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,It sounds like the Second Coming when there will be great joy.
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.
Look at Luke 10:17-21: "The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.' He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.' At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.'”
Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” … “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” … “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:2, 10, 21-24)God is into parties when sinners are saved.