Churches in China (both registered and unregistered) are taking advantage of the popularity of Christmas to teach people about the true meaning of the festival.
The Gospel Times recently reported on a sermon given by a pastor at Gangwashi Christian Church in Beijing, contemplating the best way to prepare for Christmas. The title of the sermon was “Christmas is Coming; How Should We Prepare.” It is translated below.
Christmas Eve is the busiest time in the church because we are preparing for Christmas. But do we really know what the Lord Jesus desires us to prepare for? During the November 30 Sunday worship service at Gangwashi Church in Beijing, Preacher Sun Naimu pointed out that in contrast to external decorations, Jesus desires more that we prepare our hearts to repent and receive the Savior. Preacher Sun pointed out that Christmas is approaching and that this time is also known as Advent. The church choir has begun rehearsals for the Christmas program. Brothers and sisters who participate in the services are also very busy. Yet, Jesus Christ doesn’t want us to just prepare outward adornments; he invites us to prepare our hearts. For the true believer, Christmas is not a party, nor is it just a celebration of the birthday of Jesus. We celebrate Christmas in order to prepare our own hearts to welcome the Savior to enter us and to receive the salvation he accomplished for us and which gives us true joy.
How do we prepare to welcome the Lord Jesus? Preacher Sun shared that at the time of Jesus Christ's birth, many people made good preparations, and these are a testimony to us: the wise men used gold, frankincense, and myrrh to welcome the newborn king at his birth; Simeon and Anna the Prophetess also give us beautiful examples of preparation; another one is John the Baptist, who received Jesus' high praise: "among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist."
However, even John the Baptist had his doubts. When John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the Christ. Jesus had the disciples of John the Baptist tell him what they witnessed. As to whether or not John the Baptist believed, that is his own matter. Preacher Sun added, "It is still the same today. Jesus did not force anyone. People who hear the Lord's testimony can choose to believe or choose not to believe."
At the time, John the Baptist was baptizing in the wilderness and attracted a lot of people to go observe. However, they did not really know who John the Baptist was. Even the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of the Lord Jesus did not truly know who he was. They weren't following John the Baptist in order to prepare the way of the Lord. Thus, when John the Baptist was weak and unsteady, a lot of people were also weak and unsteady. They only saw the exterior appearance. What was true for that era is still true today; blind religious obedience still exists.
Why do we come to church? Why do we celebrate Christmas? Why do we prepare for Advent? In this day and age, Jesus Christ is still proclaimed to the world. The church is not about being picturesque, or singing touching songs or wearing beautiful clothes.; even if that were the case, it is not what we really seek. Jesus Christ does not ask us to prepare external decorations, but the decoration of the soul; that is, repentance.
Many times we do not know what we really need, we do not know who Jesus is, and do not really know what the Lord wants to give us. Therefore, we blindly follow our own false ideas, asking the Lord to satisfy our wishes. As a result, no one (including God) can satisfy our true desires. We need to go back inside our hearts and ask, what is it that I really need?
Preacher Sun pointed out that our hearts are like a room filled with all sorts of stuff. We cannot tell which things are useful and which are useless, which things we should discard and which we should retain, which is gold and which is dirt. We cannot distinguish, so we pile them up in there. Our hearts play noisy music, the world tells us a mass of stuff, we live under the recommendations of other people, our ears are filled with secular suggestions; even if we have a little free time, we give it to the Internet and social media. This is our plight today. We seem busy, our appointments are stacked up, but we are still very lonely.
"To hear the sound of our souls is a frightening thing," Preacher Sun noted. It is a difficult job, when a person is very quiet, to listen to the sound of his own heart. It's as if we are telling someone of the loneliness, confusion, death, and despair…just as described in Beethoven's "Symphony of Destiny." No one is willing to listen to this voice, but Jesus wants us to listen. He wants us to see the circumstances of our own greed, lust, and mortality before repentance, before healing our lives, and the release of the soul. Only then can we move away from loneliness and confusion to find real hope, not blind obedience to falsehood.
"A diamond is not the world's hardest stone, rather it is an unrepentant heart." Preacher Sun Naimu pointed out that when we repent, Jesus Christ will speak to our hearts; at the same time, we also use our hearts to hear the Lord's voice, ready to welcome the Savior. Welcoming the Lord is not something we just do on Christmas or during Advent; rather we must do it every day.
Original article: 北京缸瓦市堂牧者：圣诞节将至，我们当预备什么？(Gospel Times. Translated and posted with permission)
Photo Credit: Joann Pittman
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