YOUR INVITATION                                                                                                                     Andy Hollifield 12-5-16

You are cordially invited to come and help us celebrate the birth of our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Sunday December 25, 2016. Please join us as we celebrate his miraculous birth on the Lord’s day at his house in your community. A special message may be given that morning by your pastor in honor of Jesus’s birth. There will be “special” songs that we only sing honoring his birth. Please plan to attend but gifts aren’t necessary. He will provide the gifts to you. Besides, we have nothing worthy to offer and what do you give someone who already has everything? Answer: Your heart! He just asks that you “…believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10) That really is all it takes to receive his gift of salvation and that my friend IS the true meaning of Christmas! God’s gift to us, mankind, is really what Christmas is all about. Not time with family and friends, although that is great and the very stuff that memories are made of. Not giving gifts to everyone else but about the gift God gave to us. As you can tell by the fact I am writing about it three weeks, correction 20 days, ahead of time; I love Christmas! I was the one sitting at the top of the stairs way before daylight, trying to discreetly make a noise that might wake up mom and dad so we could get started. My wife and I opened our gifts just after midnight Christmas Eve because I was so excited about our first Christmas together. I am also the one that hates to see the day end because it will be another 364 days before it rolls around again. When it lands on Sunday it is extra special. It is like having a birthday party as a kid when your birthday actually landed on a Saturday and you got to spend it with all of your friends. Far better than having a party on Saturday but your birthday is actually on Tuesday. Same gifts, same people, but it is just better when it is on the same day.

As an adult, one of my favorite Christmas memories took place on Christmas Sunday 2005. I was invited by former Pastor Dennis Lanning of Ridgeview Baptist Church in Alexander, NC to come and preach on Christmas morning at his church. I was thrilled and honored because as a missionary/evangelist you don’t usually have a pulpit to preach in on Christmas Day. I prayed about what to preach and the only scripture that God laid on my heart was John 3:16. We all probably know it but I don’t think I ever got past the first few words: “For God so loved the world that he gave…” That was it. One simple statement. For the next little while God sent his Holy Ghost down and it covered me from head to toe. God made real to me the gift that he had given when he gave his Son from the manger to the ascension by way of the cross and the tomb. He made real that the first Christmas tree wasn’t a pine but an old rugged cross decorated by him with the most precious of ornaments; his Son! The tree had only one light, his Son the light of the world! Gifts beyond number were under that tree for me and the biggest gift of all was salvation; forgiveness of ALL my sin! God let me preach like I never have before and not many times since. I love the tree, the lights, the songs, the gifts, the closeness of family and friends all because by his gift he became not only my friend but adopted me into his family. But because of his sacrifice on that first tree, he actually made me a blood relative!

That is my favorite memory of Christmas although I have many. Christmas on the Lord’s day doesn’t come around often 2005, 2011, and this year. Leap year changes it so much it is hard to keep up with. Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate Christ birthday in his house on the Lord’s day. Tell your family the gift you want is their presence with you in church on Christmas Sunday morning. Not one of us would want all our friends and family to celebrate our birthday at someone else’s house without us. Jesus probably don’t either. Don’t be the reason your pastor cancels Christmas day services due to lack of interest. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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