I thought I would write you to wish you and your family season’s greetings. At this time of year, many people celebrate many different things. And when I was young, Jesus was not really part of the celebration. Today, it remains true that many people who celebrate Christmas do not celebrate the birth of Jesus.
When I was young, we did not really celebrate the birth of Jesus even though we were part of a church in our city. It was more of a social pastime than anything else. I also have an aunt who is Jewish who married my uncle (my mother’s brother). Even though they celebrate Christmas, they do not believe in Jesus.
So when someone who is not Christian, or who has not come from a Christian background, looks at people celebrating Christmas, they may get the idea, “This is what Christianity is all about. It is all about giving gifts and attending church and having a Christmas tree and celebrating.”
The truth is, it is always nice to have fun, give and receive gifts, eat and see family. But you don’t need to be a Christian or even believe in Jesus to do that. In the Bible (which Christians, including myself, believe is God’s word), there is no Christmas tree. There are no ornaments. There are no wreaths. There are no light bulbs. And there is definitely no Santa!
Santa is pretty much like Snow White, Goldilocks, or Pinocchio. I’m sure you can think of a lot of stories like that. Some we call “myths” and others we call “fairy tales.” Sometimes, as human beings, we take myths and present them as truth. On the other hand, sometimes we do the exact opposite and take something that is true and present it as a myth.
The fact is, I celebrated Christmas pretty much all my life, and even went to church all my life (up to age 22), but didn’t know, or understand what Jesus was all about. Like a lot of people in Canada, the US, and even many other nations, Christmas was just a time to buy gifts — and at least once feel sad that I did not receive enough gifts! One Christmas, I cried on the steps because I did not receive enough gifts!!! My parents brought me a big gift after that to make me feel better. But deep inside, I was longing for more than gifts.
In October of 1970, near my house in St-Lambert, Quebec, but we happened to live about 5 blocks away from a politician. I used to walk by his house every day to wait for the school bus. I was only 8 years old. One day, he was killed by terrorists. The next day, there was an army tank outside his house and guards with machine guns! I has never seen anything like this before! I immediately began wondering, “What will happen if they come to get me and kill me, too!?” I was secretly terrified.
I asked my mother (who took us to church every week), “Mom, what will happen after I die?!” I didn’t know. My mom responded, “Don’t worry about that. You will be all right.” She didn’t know, either!
I lived in fear, for years. My secret fear became, “What if a nuclear bomb hits? What will I do? How must I prepare?” I did not know what would happen to me after I died, so I prepared myself to live forever (if possible) on the earth — to prevent myself from dying. So I used to think (and kept thinking), “I’m going to build a bomb shelter one day, so I can be prepared and not die.” That secret fear (I really did not tell anybody about it, but it was still there), stayed with me until I was 22.
Then, as the years went on, I pursued love and acceptance. My greatest desire was to be accepted. I don’t think I had a stronger desire than that. Could anything be higher than my desire for love and acceptance? Nothing.
People who drink excessively, pursue relationships outside of marriage, have addictions of various types, and sometimes even just regular people who like to do well at achieving and being successful (for example in school or in their jobs) can sometimes be motivated for reasons that are not too obvious. We all want to do well. We all want to succeed.
As another example, some people want to leave their mark on life, or in this world, or champion a certain cause, or simply raise good children (which of course is a very good thing), but even behind that there can be fear of the future and a desire to leave a “mark” on this world so that no one forgets them. I have seen this happen. I have seen someone who seems very secure do well in the world (even wanting to help other people do well and achieve their own dreams), and yet be totally confused about their future.
That person was really me. I wanted to help everyone else (that is a good thing) but I did not have peace about what would happen to me after I died! Horrors!
I tried some of the things mentioned above, in order to achieve acceptance in this world, but it did not work. It only led to misery and tears. I found myself crying terribly one day, almost uncontrollably. I had failed to achieve my dreams. In my low estate, that’s when God picked me up. But which god? There are so many of them!
By that time, I had already traveled to Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and many other countries (around 30).
There were a lot of faiths.
But when I was young, even though our family was not really following the God of the Bible, I remembered hearing the story of Jesus dying for me on the cross. He even claimed to be God in the flesh, saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (this quote is in the Bible along with many other quotes of Jesus who claimed full authority and equality with God and demonstrated it through miraculous works — especially rising from the dead after three days).
Christians do not believe in three Gods. They believe there is only one God who has revealed himself in three persons. That sounds like a bit of a mystery and it is. But think about water. It can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. The difference with God is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit co-exist and can communicate and relate with one another.
So Christians believe in one God, who has revealed himself in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who equally and simultaneously co-exist and who relate with one another. Thus, even at the top, there is relationship between what is known as the “God head”. There are some mysteries we may not be able to entirely solve, but this is the clear teaching of the Bible, God’s word. When I pray, I can therefore pray to God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. However, mostly, I pray to God the Father. That is also a teaching of the Bible — that our prayers should be focused on God the Father — because he seeks to be a loving father to us all. That includes being the one who provides for all our needs.
Mary is not part of the God head. She is just a human like us all. There is nothing special about Mary except that she was chosen. God chooses many people to do many things. Not everyone can be the human mother of Jesus.
And there are other people doing great works today for God — things that Mary cannot do, because she is with Jesus in heaven, along with everyone else who has been willing to follow Jesus. The Bible says we are not to pray to anyone but God. So we do not pray to Mary or to anyone else — just God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe Jesus always existed. He came into this world in the form of a man, through a woman who was a virgin. Therefore, God the Father is his father.
One day, he will also come back as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” to settle the issue of injustice and evil once and for all. He will judge the living and the dead. But first, he wants to settle the issue of evil in our own hearts. Jesus said that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
One day, God chose someone to tell me this, and I believed it. I was almost 23 at the time. I knew he was calling me to trust in him, so I did. I believed it in my heart for the first time! At that time, I saw Jesus loving me, and paying my sins, while on the cross. So I received him as my Savior. There was nothing I could go to earn his forgiveness. I had to receive it as a free gift. I did. As much as I tried to “earn” my right to be forgiven, through good works, or through any other means (such as through my intelligence, education, or giving), God was simply calling me to trust in him and to receive the gift of eternal life. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord.” So I believed. We are always called to do good works, as well, but only out of appreciation for what he has already done, and not to earn any type of “right” to be forgiven.
Something really changed in me that day. My heart changed. My desires all changed. For the first time, I really wanted to go to church — not because someone was telling me to go, but because I wanted to. Then, I started to learn more and more about God by reading the Bible. Things were now different because something was different on the inside.
Were things perfect? No. My life was not suddenly perfect. But I was now forgiven. I was forgiven because I had trusted in Jesus, who gave his life for me.
It sounds so simple, but something amazing happened that day. I wanted to do things differently. I wanted to please God. And he was not angry at me. Somehow, I knew he was there. I had a strong, overwhelming, sense of his presence. That sense has never left me in more than 30 years. There is a reason for that, because the Bible says, “By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit.”
Does this make me perfect on the outside? No. I’m far from perfect. My family knows I’m not perfect, and others know it, as well.
But if my family knows I’m not perfect, and others know it, how much more does God — who knows all things– know that we are not perfect? So then, Jesus is called the “Savior of the world” for a reason. “He shall save his people from their sins,” the Bible says.
In closing, I’d like to leave you, and your family, with a famous verse from the Bible. This is the most famous verse of all.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Should you desire more information, may I suggest you visit http://www.biblegateway.com and select a Bible in your own language, which you can read online. This website has many different online Bibles in many languages, as well as many other free resources, as well. I have found the Bible, in particular, very useful. I have also compiled a treasure list of many other excellent free resources which is available at http://www.faithnet.ca/links.