To us a Son is given

Christmas is a special time as people around the world remember the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth was prophesied hundreds of years before he was born. The prophet Micah said where he would be born: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” The prophet Isaiah spoke about his special conception: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah also said this child would be a gift from God: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Now more than 2000 years after the birth of Jesus, he is still remembered with joy and thanksgiving by countless people from many nations. Christmas carols will be heard in shopping centres, schools will have nativity plays and many people who don’t normally go to church will attend carol services. The focus will be on this special child who was born so long ago. Well-known carols explain why his coming was so important.

Jesus brought light into this dark world: “O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Angels, and the very creation itself, rejoiced at his birth: “For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love. O morning stars together proclaim the holy birth and praises sing to God the King and peace to men on earth.”

Jesus has transformed the lives of countless people and is still changing lives today. This Christmas many will come to know him for the first time: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in. O holy child of Bethlehem descend to us, we pray, cast out our sin and enter in be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell. O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Immanuel”

“God’s Tenor”

Jon Vickers has died at the age of 88. He was a world famous tenor singer whose rich and powerful voice was once described as “holding a hundred colours and inflections.” He was given the nickname “God’s tenor” because of the outstanding quality of his voice and his Christian faith. He was the finest Heldentenor of his day and sang the great heroic tenor roles in German opera. He was a perfectionist and was not always easy to work with. At times he made controversial decisions because of his Christian convictions.

Jon was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the sixth of eight children. His family was musical but very poor. His parents were so poor that the future Canadian Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, who was a long-standing friend of the family, offered to care for young Jon. As a child Jon and his brothers and sisters sang with his lay-preacher father at churches near their home. In the summer Jon worked on neighbouring farms where he developed his barrel chest. His success as a world famous tenor, and the honours and wealth that came with it, were in marked contrast with his humble beginnings. When he retired in 1988 he was very content on his farm, surrounded by nature and his family.

Jon’s Christian faith was the guiding principle for the whole of his life. He knew that the gifts he possessed had been given to him by God, so he wanted to use them in a way that pleased God. He knew that the most important thing was not his international success and acclaim but what he was as a man before God. After retiring he had time to return to his roots and to reflect on the things that matter most in life. He also had time to prepare for eternity. He proved with Paul that “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Jon is now in heaven with his Saviour, and with all those from every nation who have experienced God’s love in Jesus. He has joined the heavenly choirs who joyfully worship God as they remember God’s amazing love and grace to them. To the most beautiful heavenly music they sing, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

The joy of the Lord

Someone has said that Jesus never met an unimportant person. Large crowds of ordinary people followed him and gladly listened to his teaching. His life was very busy, but he was always ready to spend time with people and to give them his undivided attention. When sick and needy people were brought to him he healed them all. He never turned anyone away.

There is a danger that we lose sight of Jesus behind the outward ceremonies of formal religion. The Christian faith is not about the institutional church, but about Jesus. Christians love and follow Jesus. He is unique. His life and teaching have made a life-changing impact on people from every nation in the world. Because he is a living Lord and Saviour he is still transforming lives.

A wealthy Muslim lady living in the Middle East had a Christian friend. One day she asked her Christian friend to tell her about Jesus. The Christian lady was interested to know why this Muslim lady, who seemed to have everything, wanted to know more about Jesus. Her friend explained that she had a Filipino maid working in her house. Every day, as the maid went about her work, she sang and was obviously very happy. The lady had asked her why she was so happy, and the maid told her that she was a Christian and was singing about Jesus, who was her Saviour and Lord.

When we experience the love of Jesus he fills our hearts with new joy. This is true whether we are an A-list celebrity or just one of the billions of ordinary people who live in this world. Christians love to sing about Jesus and his love for them. A modern hymn expresses the joy of knowing Jesus as our Saviour. “In Christ alone my hope is found, he is my light, my strength, my song. This Cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease, my Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand. No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life’s first cry to final breath Jesus commands my destiny. No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand. ‘Til He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”