Merry Tifton!

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Friends, this is a famous story written by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, Pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Boca Raton, Florida. Please enjoy!

Once upon a time, long ago and far away in a strange land, there lived a man by the name of John Baresford Tifton—a man of incredible wealth beyond the furthest dreams of human avarice—who had the strange habit of bequeathing a million dollars to individuals of his inscrutable choice. His associate, Michael Anthony, replete with briefcase, umbrella, and hat, made his way to the objects of this munificence and bestowed upon them the gift from their great benefactor. Of course, their lives were transformed. At first there were just a few, but soon there were dozens, scores, hundreds, and finally thousands of people in his land and in lands around the world.

At his death, Mr. Tifton left explicit instructions in his will that from the incalculable holdings of his vast estate, this practice was to be continued down through the years. So it came to be that, all over this Earth, there were those who had their circumstances unbelievably transformed, as they were suddenly catapulted into the rarefied atmosphere of the millionaires who received the gift.

Now it came to pass as the centuries went by, that these people (who had also received his name, because he had adopted them into his family and had granted them other perquisites as well) decided it would be well if they would get together occasionally—because they did have so much in common now. It would be especially good if they had a celebration of the birth of their great benefactor.

So they celebrated. Of course, it’s obvious that the only people who had the slightest interest in celebrating the birth of Mr. Tifton were those who had received his gift. They were virtually a club for millionaires.

As the years went by and the celebrations continued, there were essays written about Mr. Tifton’s great character and benevolence. There were hymns written and sung to his praise. There were pictures drawn and many other ways devised to celebrate the memory of this man who had altered so many lives by his gift.

In the process of time—sad to say, it happened in America—at one of the celebrations of Mr. Tifton’s birth, a couple of people (who not only had not received the gift but didn’t have the foggiest idea that such a gift even existed) somehow wandered into a Tifton birthday celebration. You know how Americans are about crashing parties. This couple didn’t quite grasp what was going on, but they did pick up the idea that somebody had given some wonderful gifts to these people who were celebrating.

Although the couple didn’t understand at all, they did think it sounded like a good idea, so they told their friends, and they told their friends, and they told their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. And believe it or not, the idea spread. Before long, almost everybody was celebrating Tifton Day.

The department stores even picked up the idea. (They had a keen eye for that sort of thing.) Before you know it, there were Tifton specials all over the place. And other things arose. There was the Tifton card, of course, and then came the Tifton tree. Strange to say, the tree didn’t even grow in the land where Mr. Tifton was born. You may not believe this, but it is actually true that in time Tifton Day became a national holiday. Everybody was celebrating.

In Search of the True Tifton Day

One day years later, on Tifton Eve, two gentlemen who had been recipients of the Tifton gift happened to land in New York Harbor. As they walked down the gangplank, one of them said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find someone in America who is a Tifton recipient? We could celebrate tomorrow on the birthday of our benefactor.”

The other said, “Ah, yes, but in such a large land as this, it’s highly unlikely that in so short a period of time, we should be so fortunate.”

To their utter amazement, as they walked down the street and looked into the window of the first department store that caught their eye, there was a sign shouting out, ONLY ONE MORE DAY UNTIL TIFTON! And in the next window, TIFTON SPECIALS: HALF OFF.

The two men said to each other, “Ah, we are in luck. We have found a Tifton. But isn’t it strange that he calls himself Macy? Well, these Americans are an odd lot.” They started into the store to find the owner, when across the street they heard someone cry, “Merry Tifton!” Startled, they turned. Then from their own side of the street came a chorus of voices all around them saying, “Merry Tifton and a Happy New Year.” With that they were absolutely dumbfounded.

“Certainly,” they said, “Mr. Tifton has been very prodigal with his gifts in America, unlike anything we have ever seen in his own land.”

It came to pass in the providence of God that, in the evening, they found themselves invited into a large home where there was in progress another American innovation, a Tifton Eve cocktail party, in full swing. They noticed as they were standing in the corner that some of these people were absolutely falling-down drunk, which they thought very strange, because they were quite confident that Mr. Tifton would not approve of that sort of conduct, and they could not see how this would be honoring to his memory.

One of them said to the other, “My dear brother, this afternoon on the street when all of those people were shouting, ‘Merry Tifton,’ did you notice the way some of them were dressed?”

“Why yes, I did. I didn’t want to say anything, but surely they did not look like millionaires to me.”

“That’s just what I thought. I can’t understand it. Have you noticed here on the mantelpiece all of these Tifton cards? I’ve just been looking at them, and the thing that absolutely astounds me, and I find it completely baffling, is the fact that most of them don’t say anything at all about Mr. Tifton. In fact, they have this picture of this fat man in this green suit in a chariot drawn by eight reindeer, one of which has a very bright nose.”

The other man said, “Oh yes, I noticed that. I inquired about it, and it seems that this is some character they have invented. His name, I believe, is Surper. Yes, St. Surper. I think his first name is Uriah. I believe they call him simply by his initial, uh, U. Surper. St. U. Surper, I believe, is the full name. It seems that so many of their Tifton songs are not about Tifton but about Mr. U. Surper. I find this very difficult to understand. Perhaps one of these people here at the party could enlighten us.”

And so they turned to the man who was closest to them and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Tifton.”

The fellow looked at them and said, “You must be tipsier than I am. Mike’s the name—Michael Mythology. What can I do for you?”

They said, “Would you kindly explain something to us, sir? We’re a little bit confused. I do suppose that you have received the million dollars.”

“The what???”

“The million dollars? The gift from Mr. Tifton?”

“A million dollars? Man,” he said, “I had to borrow three hundred dollars from the finance company to buy my Tifton gifts this year! What are you talking about?”

They said, “Well, why are you celebrating Tifton Day? What is it all about?”

“Oh ho!” he said. “Well, that’s easy. You understand that there was this fellow, they say, named Tifton, who had a way of giving presents to people. I don’t know what they were—ties, neckties, handkerchiefs, pajamas, that sort of thing. And, uh, of course, uh, some people think that he really lived, but we, in our sophisticated, modern world know that it’s all a myth. Nevertheless, it is a nice idea. We picked up the idea and we give gifts and we sort of change it around a little bit. But that’s basically the idea. You don’t really think there’s anything to that old idea that he really lived and actually gave some important gifts to people? Of course we don’t, but it is nice.”

“Yes,” said the visitors, “I can see from that purple tie with the orange stripes you’re wearing that this is a very significant day in your life.” Mike staggered away, leaving them even more baffled than before.

They said to another gentleman, “Sir, could you please help us? Could you tell us, have you received the gift of a million dollars?”

“Huh?” he said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

They said, “Tell us, Sir, why do you celebrate Tifton Day?”

He said to them, “Well, that’s an absurd question. Everybody celebrates Tifton Day. When I was just a child, I used to hang my Tifton stocking on the mantelpiece. My parents and my grandparents celebrated Tifton Day. Everybody celebrates Tifton Day. What’s wrong with you foreigners coming over here questioning our customs?” And he sort of wandered away.

The two still could not understand. They decided they should make one last effort. Having talked to this gentleman, Mr. Traditional, and not getting much help, they asked one other man who introduced himself as Mr. Bootstraps. “Benny Bootstraps,” he said his name was, and he’d be glad to help them. Sure, he could explain the meaning of Tifton Day.

“Well, you see there was this fellow named Tifton; started out very poor, I understand. His whole life was written up in a big, black book. Most of us have them, but nobody reads it much anymore. Anyway, it tells the principles of success he used to make a million. The idea is that we will read that book and follow those principles so we can become rich, too. I think that’s the basic idea that’s found in the book. You know, sort of reach down and give yourself a good tug.”

They said, “What about the gift?”

Mr. Bootstraps says, “What gift is that?”

About that time, there was a knock at the door. And when no one answered, the door opened, and there appeared the perennial descendant of Michael Anthony, umbrella under his arm and briefcase in his hand. Our two faraway friends were delighted to see that here at least at this party someone was going to receive the gift. And since no one paid him any mind, Mr. Anthony said, “Excuse me.” Still, no one heard him over the laughter and the hubbub of the party and the tinkling of glasses.

Mr. Anthony spoke again, “I beg your pardon, but I have here with me—” His voice was drowned out. He made one more effort, and then disgusted, he turned and left, closing the door behind him. No one had seen him come. No one listened to his voice. No one received the gift.

Conclusion

That is my modern parable of Christmas. I wonder how many here fast approaching Christmas Day,  ready to rip off all the ribbons, tear off the wrappings, and open all of the boxes, will find that something is still lacking.  After everything is said and done, and the excitement of newly opened Christmas gifts wears off, what next? Every Christmas do we not always long for more? There is still a disconcerting sense emptiness in unsatisfied hearts after the seasonal production of the holidays end. Something is still missing.

I wonder how many of you have received the Gift? I wonder how many of you have heard His voice, silently deep in your hearts? When the Christmas music is over, the carols have ended, and the last strains have faded away, I wonder how many of you will be left with the same silent emptiness you had before. I wonder how many of you have received the Gift?

I wonder, most tragically of all, if there are those in our midst today, in this so-called Christian nation, who are so spiritually blind they do not even know what the Gift is?

Our parable has a text, and it is this: “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable Gift!” Do you have the Gift, my friend, or are you here today a spiritual pauper in the midst of millionaires?

What is the Gift? If you do not know, God’s Word tells us: “The Gift of God is eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Have you received that Gift? If you have received it, then you know it. If you do not know it, it is because you have not received it. Do you know for sure that you are on your way to Paradise? When you leave this life, will you be with Christ forever? Do you have that ironclad assurance, doubtless confidence and unquestionable certainty?

If not, then, my friend, you are still a pauper. I have Good News—there stands at the door today One who offers to us that Gift and declares, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man hear My voice and open the door to his heart, I will come into him.”

This is a Gift that was not paid for with paltry cash in a department store. It was paid for with the precious blood of Christ on Calvary at infinite cost. Having taken upon himself our guilt and sin, He endured the wrath of his Father in our place, so that we might be freely forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life. If you have received that Gift, then this Christmastime you’re saying with the apostle, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!”

If you have not received the Gift, then you can receive it today by placing your trust in Christ and receiving Him as Lord and Master and Savior of your life. The Gift can be yours right now. If you are not willing to receive it, then I suppose the only thing I could say to you sadly is “Merry Tifton.”

Christmas Peace at Checkout

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🎄 Recently, a frazzled, frustrated checkout clerk asked me, as she was ringing up a few items, “Why are so JOLLY? Don’t you know it’s Christmas, the WORST time of the year to work in retail?”

I paused, looked into her stressed, tired face and said, “Yes, you may be right, however, the first Christmas wasn’t in retail, it was in a little, peaceful town of Bethlehem, where’s there’s no long checkout lines. Love was born there with a baby, not a box.”

I thought she was going to start crying right then and there in front of the whole store. I then leaned forward, looked at her with compassion and said, in a lower tone of voice, “I wish you more than a Merry Christmas—I wish you Jesus, the Prince of Peace.”

She just stared at me in shock with a little smile starting to crack her frown and said, “Thank you. I needed that.”

Be on the lookout, this Christmas, for those “God moments” He gives you. The more your joy shows, the more the world wonders. And, the more the world wonders, the bigger your door of opportunity to share the reason for this season: Jesus.

David Crews

Christmas is For Those Too

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We are by now accustomed to hearing about how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his—ahem—problems with this season are no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy. Let’s face it; this time of the year can stir up memories of possibly better times, at least the way we see it. The Christmas blues can hit hard when we think of those we used to spend Christmas with are now gone by death, divorce or a broken relationship. We can be alone and these thoughts may not be so merry, but hang over our heads like the wrong kind of mistletoe.

Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It’s been a story hard to forget. A young mother had to give up her kids to her X-husband because she could no longer afford to raise them on her own with the job she had. Her soul was ripped in two. I could go on, but you get the point.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce, or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who realize they really need a rescue that is bigger than themselves. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who have to live alone when they would rather be married. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray. Christmas is for those who have all but given up on life whose hopes have been crushed too many times to hope any more, but rather exist an odd “comfortably numb” existence during the holiday season,

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

From Cradle to Cross to Crown

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This has been a most disturbing year in American history.  Did you know that there has been 307 mass shootings in the U.S, so far, this year alone? In fact, there has been nearly as many mass shootings as we have had actual calendar days in 2017.

On the night of October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. This horrible event is considered the “Worst Mass Shooting in American History.” On Nov. 5, a 26-year-old gunman shot and killed 26 people including several children, a pregnant woman and the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter during a Sunday church service at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. The shooting was the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the deadliest in Texas. Millions of Americans at this moment are confused, discouraged, cynical, frightened and disillusioned. Each day seems to add to our problems.

In the wake of a difficult year, many people have become somewhat numbed to what appears to be the “further unraveling of our culture.” In October, the New York Times published allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, more than 38 sexual misconduct scandals have occurred involving high-profile men, actors and national, once-respected celebrities such as; Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, U.S. Senator John Conyers (D-Mich.), U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), Comedian Louis C.K., Alabama Judge Roy Moore, Actor Dustin Hoffman, Actor Kevin Spacey, and Actor Ben Affleck, to name just a few.

Contrasted against the dark background of 2017, in the midst of all this terrible upheaval, crisis, difficulty, problems and fear, comes the message of Christmas with all of its hope, goodwill and cheer. I think the message of Christmas has been terribly misapplied and misunderstood for many years in this country. There has never been a greater need to revisit, renew and recapture the reason for Christmas, not only for our country, but for our lives personally, than there is right now.

During this holiday season many people are caught up in the material side of business profits, shopping, gifts, tinsel, toys and celebration. Others are more spiritual and think mostly of Bethlehem, of the star in the sky, shepherds in the field and angels singing. Still others cynically ask, “Where is this Prince of Peace in a world filled with so much trouble? Where is this peace on earth promised to us”

But the real Christmas message goes far deeper. It answers all the great questions that plague the human race at this hour. The Christmas message is relevant, revolutionary and reassuring to us today. I believe it can be summed up in three words: a cradle, a cross and a crown.

First, the cradle. On that first Christmas night, the Bible tells us about the angel coming to those fearful shepherds and saying, “Fear not, I bring you Good News” (Luke 2:10).

During World War II, many a mother would take her son and try to keep the memory of the father, who was away at war, in the memory of the boy. One mother I heard about took her son every day into the bedroom and showed him a large portrait of the father who was away. And one day the little boy said, “Mom, wouldn’t it be great if Dad could just step out of the frame?”

That’s what happened that first Christmas. For centuries men had looked into the heavens longing for God to step out of the frame, and at Bethlehem that’s exactly what God did. God stepped into our world through our human skin and became one of us, yet without sin. God became personal in an intimate way like never before. God walked “in our shoes” in Jesus.

Incredible and unbelievable as it may appear to a modern man, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was a visitor from outer space. He was God Incarnate. That virgin-born baby was God in human form. He humbled Himself, He took the form of a Servant, He was made in your likeness and mine, He identified Himself with the problems of the human race. And thus it was that the Apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14).

What a difference the baby born in Bethlehem’s manger 2,000 years ago makes to our world today. The educational systems He has inspired, the social reforms that His teachings have instituted, and the transformation of families and lives that have come about as a result of a baby born at Bethlehem! The whole world was thinking of Caesar. The whole world was thinking of Rome. But in God’s eternal plan, He was thinking of a Baby in a manger in the little tiny town of Bethlehem.

Second, there’s the cross. Christmas, to have meaning, cannot be separated from the cross. The angel said at the birth of Jesus, “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Himself said, speaking just before His death, “For this cause was I born” (John 18:37). He was the only person in history who was born with the purpose of dying. The Apostle Paul, years later said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

The central message of Christmas is that Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, can transform both individuals and society. Almost everyone at some time or another feels shame, moral guilt and failure. In every newspaper or magazine that we pick up, and in every newscast that we watch, we see a picture of hate and lust and greed and prejudice and corruption—manifested in a thousand ways. The fact that we have wars, crime, injustice, terrorism, hate, racism, policemen and jails and military forces indicates that something is radically wrong with human nature. We suffer from a heart problem on an epidemic scale.

The Bible teaches that the human race is morally sick. This spiritual disease has affected every phase of our life in society. The Bible calls this disease by an ugly, three-letter word: Sin. Secular psychologists may try and explain our problems away, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see something is radically wrong with human nature. The evidence is all around us, everyday.

The Bible teaches that the only cure for sin is the blood that Christ shed on the cross. Christ became the Lamb of God who bled and died on the cross for our sins. He took upon Himself our sin, rebellion and disbelief, for us, in our place, on that rugged, Roman cross. The sin we committed, He became guilty of. He took the curse of sin, the death, hell and judgment we deserved, on that cross.

The cross and the resurrection stand today as man’s only hope. It was on Good Friday and Easter that God did for man what man could not do for himself. From these momentous events, God is saying to sinful man, “I love you. I love you so much I gave My Son.” But He’s saying more than that. He’s saying, “I can forgive you, because of what He did on the cross.” And this is Good News this Christmas!

Some may dismiss it as idiotic and ridiculous that a man dying 2,000 years ago could be relevant today. Paul anticipated that we’d say that. He said, “The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death it is nothing less than the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, Phillips).

I believe that America stands on the threshold of divine judgment. Morally, socially, economically, politically, spiritually, we are in deep trouble. We’ve turned away from God, and every month seems to take us further away from the only One who can reverse the tide, forgive our sins and forestall the imminent judgment. We must alter our course if we are going to see many more Christmas seasons as a free people. We are running out of time to change our ways. Our country desperately needs a moral and spiritual awakening from coast to coast. Many concerned believers today are praying for just that, even as we speak now.

Our greatest need is a change in the hearts of people. That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). That’s why He said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Paul, in his famous sermon at Mars Hill, said, “God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world” (Acts 17:30-31).

Who should repent? Everybody. This is what the cross calls for. The heart of its message is simple: Repent or perish. I know the word “repent” sounds like an archaic term, but what it means literally in the Greek is, “a change of mind, a change of heart, a turning away from the things that are wrong in our life and a turning towards God.” Of course, we need God’s grace and power to do this. But, there is an alarming trend in many pulpits today of some popular television preachers preaching a gospel without repentance, a “cheap grace” and “easy believism,” as Bonhoeffer warned us about. Yet, the truth is, without repentance we cannot be saved. Keep in mind, when we commit our lives to Jesus Christ, God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us repent. We are given all the spiritual power we need and more to become the transformed people He has called us to be. As we follow Christ, we learn that repentance is not just a one time “walk down the aisle.” It’s a lifetime of seeking to live in holy, set apart for the glory of God. Thank God He gives us not only the power, but the desire to live Christian lives as we should.

The Scripture says, “A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise” (Cf. Psalm 51:17). If we as individuals and as a nation would humble ourselves and turn from our sins, God has promised forgiveness, healing to the nation and eternal life to the individual.

Third, there’s the crown. Chiseled into the cornerstone of the United Nations building is a quotation from the Bible that has never yet been fulfilled. It reads, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). This is a thrilling thought. It has often been repeated by those who long for peace. However, this quotation must not be taken out of context.

The passage speaks of the future time when the Messiah will reign over the whole earth. This is the era about which Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This is the time when He who came as the baby of Bethlehem shall come back as King of kings and Lord of Lords. The Bible teaches that there will be an end to history as we know it. Man will have his last Armageddon. But when it seems that man is about to destroy himself, God will intervene. Christ will return.

At the cradle, He was in the stall of an animal. At the cross, He wore a crown of thorns. But, praise God, when Jesus returns, it will be as the mighty, victorious Commander in Chief of the armies of Heaven, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” He will take control of this war-weary world and bring the peace that we strive for and long for. A new world will be formed, a new social order will emerge. Sin will be eliminated. Tears will be wiped from every eye. Disease shall be no more, and even death will be eliminated from the human scene. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and war shall be no more.

This is the promise of Christmas. This is our hope. This is the Christmas star that lights our darkness. This is the assurance that a new day is coming, through the Messiah, whose name is called by Isaiah the prophet, “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

This is God’s gift of Christmas: the cradle—His Son; the Cross—His life; the crown—His coming kingdom. As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us note not only the historical significance of Advent, but the radical difference Christ makes in our lives today, and the uplifting hope we have for the future with His return.