Spend time with family and spread love to mankind
My brothers and sisters, we are numbered among the blessed to be able to experience another Christmas season, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. During this time, His birth and ultimate sacrifice should be foremost in our minds. As we move about shopping and enjoying other festivities, we should be mindful of the true value of life and the need for us to foster a sense of community within our country, which extends beyond our comfort zones and doorsteps.
I think that we can all agree that 2019 is a year that many Bahamians will not soon forget. We have witnessed great tragedy and great generosity. We have experienced great challenges – some we overcame and others we are still grappling with. There are many of us who have lost loved ones and all of our earthly material possessions. Some Bahamians are fighting to keep their heads above water financially, wondering where the next dollar will come from. Some of us are challenged in our health and need a touch from the healing hands of God. Still, there are some of us who have been blessed beyond measure this year. No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, we all have something for which we can show God our gratitude.
Hurricane Dorian was obviously the largest and most impactful event (of record) to happen in The Bahamas this year. This Category 5 storm hovered over the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama in September taking many lives and causing millions of dollars in damage. Because of this, there are Bahamians who find themselves back at the starting line after having worked their entire lives to build their homes and acquire other material possessions. This Christmas will not be the same as previous ones in the hearts and minds of those who have suffered such great loss. My advice to them in this time is to still celebrate in whatever way they can. There may not be extravagant Christmas gifts or a tree this year but there is still life, health, strength, faith and hope. These are the fundamentals on which greatness is built. The same God that helped you get where you were before the storm is the same God that can do it again bigger and better after the storm.
It is easy to get caught up in the commercialization of the holidays and forget what really matters. We place undue pressure on ourselves to purchase expensive gifts and to outdo one another with festivities. It seems that we give everyone a gift except Jesus. Our gift to Him should be reflected in what we do for the least among us and what we do in His name. This year, we should give the gift of volunteering to help rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama in whatever way we can.
As a country, we must resolve to get back to the business of nation building. We must reaffirm our commitment to march together to our common loftier goal. Our best and brightest minds must be engaged to solve the issues we face. Those of us that name the name of Jesus and have the talent to lead for a better future should see our national challenges as a clarion call to service. We have a country that has boundless potential, which can be developed to the benefit of Bahamians. The need for the reconstruction of the second and third cities of our nation presents us with great opportunity if we are willing to let God be our guide and think outside of the box.
God’s immense grace and mercy has allowed us to see the end of another decade and the beginning of a new one. With that new beginning comes immeasurable hope which along with faith is all we need to move forward because Philippians 4:13 teaches us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
In this season, I wish for all the peace that passes all understanding. When you know that God has you in the palm of his hand, you can move forward through adversity and you can celebrate and praise when your circumstances dictate despair. It is my hope that you will use this season to spend time with family and spread the love to mankind that God has shown to us by sending His son to be born in a lowly manger and die an agonizing death on a cross.
On behalf of the Bahamas Christian Council, I wish every Bahamian a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I invite you to visit the church of your choice this holiday. May God continue to bless you and may God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
– Bishop Delton Fernander,
Bahamas Christian Council president
The real meaning of Christmas
Luke 2:15 – “… Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Christmas is about God coming into the world in a phenomenally unusual way, and establishing a new and radical relationship between the human and the divine, the physical and the transcendent.
This is the case whether you see the Christmas story as an event recorded in the Word of God (the Bible), as a spiritual event, or as a parable – and that story is all of the above.
The Christmas story is about turning everything upside down, about doing things differently than they were done before, and every element of the story exhibits this:
• Mary is told that she will bear God’s son although she is engaged to someone, Joseph. (Luke 1)
• Joseph has every right to disgrace her publicly and walk away, but instead retains the engagement and accepts the child as his own. (Matthew 1:24)
• Common shepherds see a vision while on night duty, and they come to find the new baby. (Luke 2:8-16)
• Three distinguished and learned foreign visitors study prophecy and astronomy. They travel a great distance to find the baby Jesus and to bring him gifts. (Matthew 2:1-12)
• Simeon, a godly old man, rejoices to see the baby Jesus and says some strange things about what the child would be. He says that Jesus will cause the fall and rise of many people in Israel (Luke 2:34).
These are all examples of God turning the established order upside down.
No one even imagined or expected God to take the form of a human and to enter the world through a human mother like everyone else. No one expected Jesus’ teaching to upset the established order like it did. He challenged His hearers not just to do things like they always did, or for “doing” sake alone. He called His hearers to form a relationship with God rather than simply following a prescribed form. He called people to act humanely, first and foremost, because God is a person in His Son Jesus. This new compass was to be our guide rather than simply doing what people always did.
A parable like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) and a story like that of the Pharisee and the tax collector or publican (Luke 18) both make a point: true religion is not about who you are or about what others regard or perceive you to be – true religion is treating others in a way that honors them as fellow human beings. True religion is treating people respectfully in spite of who we are and who they are. True religion is allowing ourselves to be controlled by what God thinks of us and of our actions.
The babe in Bethlehem and the man Jesus both challenge us to pursue and to live this truth, even if it is difficult, or makes us uncomfortable, or “cramps our style”, or causes us to change radically the way we have always done business.
If we were to “drill down” into this point, here are some questions we would have to ask ourselves honestly as we pursue true religion and the real meaning of Christmas:
• How is God calling me to make a radical change in some area of my life?
• What can I do in a new and radical way to be more pleasing to God?
• What is God calling me to do that will take me out of my usual place but nearer to His will?
• What is it that will take me out of my comfort zone but into the will of God?
• What opinion of myself do I hold on to even though it degrades and devalues others?
• What are the things in my life which affirm me but displease God?
When we answer these questions honestly and allow the answers to change our behavior, we begin to approach what the real meaning, purpose and intent of Christmas is. Jesus came into the world as a baby to change us into who God would have us to be. When we do not do these things people do not see the spirit of Jesus in us. Then the gospel becomes a joke and Christianity seems like a waste of time to those who observe our attitudes and actions.
This Christmas let us take stock of where we are and make every effort to be what we ought to be. This is why the babe of Bethlehem came into our world, and may we never forget it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. We wish you and your families every blessing and more. May Almighty God grant you resolution and fulfillment now and always. Yours in Christ.
– The Rt. Rev’d. Laish Z. Boyd,
Anglican bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands
Christmas is really about how God touched our lives with His love
My fellow Bahamians, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
This year has been a difficult one for this country. With the passage of Hurricane Dorian, we have experienced great challenges, which still exist.
When we look at the lowly stable, because there was no room in the inn for Jesus to be born, when we look at the poor, down trodden, homeless and those who are less fortunate, we think of Jesus who had no place to lay his head.
When we read about Joseph’s and Mary’s escape to Egypt to save their lives from King Herod, we realize that the world has not changed in its attitudes toward our fellowmen.
As we think of the Prince of Peace in this busy season, let us not stress ourselves over the season but remember that Jesus came so that we might have peace.
Christmas is really about God’s mighty arm reveling in its glory and strength in the person of Jesus Christ. Christmas is sharing and caring, but Christmas is really about God’s faithfulness made tangible throughout history. It is about how God touched our lives with His love. Christmas is for people who have nothing and for people who need everything.
Isaiah 52:7-10 reads: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.
Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem.”
When we stand before God, He has every reason to cast us out of His presence. We don’t deserve the blessings of God. But He still loved us and sent His Son to redeem us.
This Christmas, we are thankful for our international leadership and partners who came to our rescue during this time of need. For their support, we are eternally grateful.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV) states: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
This Christmas, let us celebrate the birth of Christ as never yet before. Merry Christmas and a most prosperous New Year!
– Bishop Moses A. Johnson,
administrative bishop, Church of God Bahamas
A star to follow, a king to worship
Dr. Colin Archer, that erudite scholar of the Methodist community, has often voiced that universal truth that mankind, by nature, is primarily spiritual trying to live out that built-in spirituality in human form.
Spirituality is universal and pervasive and a perennial interest of mankind expressed in a variety of ways.
Archeologists, digging in ruins of the earliest civilizations, have found relics and images, which confirm man worshipped regularly.
Spirituality predicates recorded history: noted theologian Paul Tillich once said, “If there was no God, we would need to invent one to worship”. Something deep inside us longs to reconnect with its spiritual progenitor.
Physically, we all have been given five senses but these are far from complete unless we embrace a sixth sense of spirituality – an awareness that a source, a transcendent power outside of ourselves, to whom we, as created beings are answerable and accomplishable.
It was St. Augustine the distinguished Roman cleric who helped shape much of the doctrines of our faith. He opined: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until it finds itself in thee.”
Find your star: Find and follow your star. It will bring you to all that is most lofty and personally worthwhile in your life.
The sacred texts, which give us the story of the birth of Christ, might lose some of its efficacy if we do not go a little further through the rubbles of traditions, raw commercialism and carnal secularism and find our star.
The wise men were not “Christians” on a pilgrimage – they were most likely pagans – non-Jews with a native predisposition to explore new phenomenon.
They saw and followed a star: the astrological firmament connected with that inner voice that caused them to leave comfortable and familiar surroundings and traverse hundreds of miles to the boarders of new excitements.
Find your star, embrace your star, follow your star and eventually you will come to the boundaries of fulfillment.
A sense of worship: it is the discovering of your “north star” that will ease much of the pain you will suffer in pursuing it.
The wise men in the story of Christ’s birth, came from afar – some say modern day Iraq, but the point I make is that if you wish to discover your life’s purpose you must first connect to that “inner witness” that speaks loudly – this is what you are here to do.
Finally, the wise men eventually came where the child was.
Christ’s birth gives us a new way of life; a new way to understand and move from sacrificing to worshipping. The wise men travelled. Is that not in fact the road we all sometimes must take?
This year has not been a good year for most of us. Personal failures, disappointments, health issues and then came Dorian. All these, notwithstanding, here we are – we still can give thanks and worship.
Sometimes you have to fight the same battle more than once to eventually win it.
After they discovered the Christ child, they went back home another way.
A river eventually cuts through a rock not because of its power but because of persistence.
The wise men from the east found their star and by persistently following it, it guided them to a worship experience with the king of all kings.
I commiserate with those who are aimlessly lost in the wilderness of disconnection. We also stand with those hundreds of persons waylaid by the social inequities of our times.
Find your star, follow your life’s purpose and eventually it will bring you into a sovereign kingly presence you were born to serve. From my house to yours – Immanuel – God with us.
– Bishop Simeon B. Hall, pastor emeritus, New Covenant Baptist Church
Only a messenger, but somebody has to make the runs
Imagine that angel Gabriel, whose name means “God has showed Himself strong”, while on his second visit from heaven to planet earth, as a messenger from God, as recorded in Luke’s gospel, is in deep thought: I can’t understand my boss, sometimes. It was only six months ago that I paid my last official visit to this same part of planet earth, as an ambassador of the Lord God Almighty!
You see, I have a special insignia.
Here is how I announce my status to earth people: I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God. I can tell you that my work environment is indescribable – no matter what language one might choose to use to talk about it. I am constantly surrounded by numberless fellow angels, who, in unison, carry on an endless verbal chant: “Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!”
“And the heavenly atmosphere (to borrow an earthly terminology) is filled with an awe that eyes can never tire looking upon – a constant scene – always dazzling; amazing; brilliant; beautiful; exciting; inspiring; chilling; overwhelming; exhilarating; elaborate; colorful; and yet it is also serene, comforting and satisfying!
Yes, heaven is the headquarters of my work place, and my official residence. I can assure you that it is so different from earth. I tell you it is such a privilege to be a fully certified citizen of heaven. It cannot be improved. I wait expectantly, always poised to move without question or hesitation, to carry out the wish of Heaven’s throne.
I was just wondering why I could not have done this present job on that earlier occasion. At that time, I announced another special birth – by a barren woman, married to a man years beyond his ability to produce a pregnancy. That birth was for a son called John.
My, what family delight that brought! From miles around they came to see this miracle son! I like that!
Now, an even more alarming birth announcement is to be made by me. I must tell an unmarried teenager, but betrothed virgin, that because of God’s favor, she is the one chosen by Him to be the mother of another special “child gift” to earth dwellers.
Well, I’m now here at a little home in Nazareth. And here is Mary – young, devout, God-fearing, innocent, sexually pure and deeply devoted to her betrothed lover – one young man named Joseph. He is also godly, sexually pure and virtuous.
I’m sorry to have to pounce upon people so suddenly. One moment nobody is before them – the next moment I appear. No wonder they are all greatly terrified at my arrival. But that’s the way it is with angels, you know! We just show up – unexpected and unannounced! We come out of the clear blue (as you earth people say).
But what a joy for me to see how graciously and humbly Mary has accepted her role in this divine drama. I explained to her that she had found favor with God and that she would bear a son – Jesus, the Savior of the world. He would in fact be God in human flesh. And all this without a human father being needed. No wonder I had to assure her: For nothing is impossible with God she responded. Be it done unto me according to thy word.
Well, thank God another mission is accomplished. I believe that my visit here is going to put this insignificant town of Nazareth on the map of the world for a long time to come. And the whole earth will enjoy its benefits.
I am sure that my boss in Heaven will be pleased with the success of my mission. And that’s how I get my own pleasure – in pleasing Him; and seeing Him pleased.
Here is now my advice to all who would desire to bring God glory and honor: Whatever the heavenly master desires of you – do it with joy, even if it is merely doing some leg work, like me. I can tell you from personal experience that He likes that, from all of His creatures.
Such were angel Gabriel’s private thoughts and Christmas message to all who would listen. And I agree fully with his recommendation, as a Christmas wish for all.
– Pastor Rex Major