By David Green
President, Tennessee Baptist Convention
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed (and this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria). And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:1-4, NKJV).
What does it mean for you to be home for Christmas? I believe we all know what it meant to Mary and Joseph. They returned to Bethlehem to be home that first Christmas to be counted in a census. This census resulted in crowded streets, confusion, concern about the future, the promise of higher taxes and less control of their own lives. Wow, that sounds familiar. Mary and Joseph were truly in the midst of what could be considered the most difficult days of their lives as the favor of the Lord shined upon them!
Being home for Christmas means many things to many people. Hopefully, to all Christians, it means that we are taking time to celebrate the birth of our Savior coming into the darkness of this world to provide the light of salvation to all who believe.
As we rejoice, we must remember that the majority of Tennesseans may know the reason that we celebrate but they do not truly understand the redemption that we celebrate. We must all be intentionally evangelistic as a way of life this Christmas and all year long. Share the truth of Christ and the gift of salvation that comes by grace through faith in His redemptive sacrifice on the cross for us and expect a response.
Just recently, as I drove back into Greeneville after a week of meetings across the state, I stopped by the hospital to visit a hospice patient. The family called me while I was on the road to let me know that she did not have long to live. I walked in her room not knowing what to expect, but was surprised to see the patient sitting up in bed and smiling. She was actually glowing. If anyone had a reason to be sad, depressed, concerned or just overwhelmed, she did.
But she was smiling and optimistic even though she was obviously in pain and very uncomfortable. We talked for a while about her condition and what the doctors were telling her.
Then it happened. She stopped talking and smiled. She looked at me and said, “Pastor, I am glad that I am in line.”
In that silent moment, I was blessed with the opportunity to feel almost every emotion that you would expect all at the same time as I listened to her and watched her smile. A lump came in my throat and a tear came to my eye. I am sure that she saw the emotion on my face as I prayed for her. Then that precious hospice patient said, “Keep telling people about Jesus. It is all going to be good. I’ll be home for Christmas.”
That is why we do what we do! It is because He did what He did! Christ brings light into the darkness and we must intentionally take the good news of His redeeming love everywhere we go. I am so thankful to be able to serve our Lord by serving my family, First Baptist Church, Greeneville, my community and Tennessee Baptists. Merry Christmas!