The following anonymous writing was found in The Leader, 7th January, 2003:-


"By now the tree should be down, (well it is in our house), the cards removed from the doors and mantelpiece, the decorations packed away for another eleven months, and the commercial trappings which have been with us since October are finally beginning to disappear from the shops.


[4] All of these things looked so seasonal and in place just 12 days go.  They added to the whole festive cheer of the season and it just wouldn’t be the same without them.


Our homes, our streets, the shops all decorated to put us in the mood for yet another Christmas.  And yet now only a matter of days later, they seem so out of place.


Try wishing someone a Happy Christmas now and they’ll look at you strangely.  Try eating turkey and ham, pulling crackers and singing carols now and it just doesn’t seem right.  Something that was so proper just a few days ago now seems out of place.


Why is this so? Well it’s because we have moved on. Christmas is a season, a set time, in which we do certain things, but as soon as it is over we move on to something else. Already the shops will be thinking about Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and then there is Easter.


In our homes we are thinking about overdrafts, credit card bills in January, returning unwanted or oversized goods, back to school, work or facing retirement in this New Year.


Our minds have moved on. Christmas was good while it lasted.  Some of us we wish it could last longer, while others are just glad to enjoy it and move on into a new year.


But is that what Christmas was to you?        Is it just a short season of the year in which you decorate your house, send loads of cards to people you never see from one year to the next, rush around buying food as if the December 26th will never happen, and over spend yet again?


Surely there has to be more to it than these things.  When the boxes are closed and put away in the attic for another year, is that it?  Can we just forget about it for another 10 months; until the shops in October remind us once again that there are only 50 or 60 days to shop until Christmas 2003?


Surely there has to be more to it than these things?  The Baby who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger just didn’t stay there.  The real meaning of Christmas didn’t end in the stable.  And yet if many of us are honest with ourselves, that is exactly where we leave it, or should I say, leave Him.  Christmas is only the beginning.


What good is there in starting something if you don’t go on?  What is the point of reading the first chapter of a book and not the rest, or following the first part of a recipe and then making the rest up as you go along?  [1] I would be pretty foolish if I watched the first part of a film and not the other parts of it, or made part of a jigsaw and not the remainder, or even ran the first part of a race and then dropped out.


Christmas is only a beginning because it is all about a beginning.  A beginning of God’s presence on this earth in the form of a baby who was both human and divine and who was given the name Jesus.


[2] Christmas is all about God with Us, not just for a few hectic weeks every December and over into the New Year, but every day of every year.


He is not someone whom we now pack away in our minds until next year, or the next crisis, but is Someone who wants to be part of our lives throughout 2003 and beyond.


This gift of his daily presence* is not available in any shop or shopping channel on your television.  It comes to you and me free when we simply ask him and allow him to come and be the centre of our lives, through faith in the child in the manger who was the Saviour of the world. [3] Happy New Year."


[* That is, in a spiritual sense.]




1. The citizens of Coleraine, and its surrounding districts, are privileged in that they are supplied with a free copy of a weekly newspaper in which can be found (on page 2), "Thought for the Week".  I often use these (usually anonymous) short writings as good introductory material upon which to further the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His apostles relative to the coming Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth.


It is common knowledge, or at least it should be, that eternal salvation - that is, eternal life in the presence of God - is a "free gift" of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2: 8,9; Rom. ch. 5.)  When we fully understand that, and accept Him as our personal Saviour, then the inevitable result will be the wonderful experience of conversion.  We, at that time, become true Christians; the Holy Spirit makes us true members within God’s family; we become, as they say, ‘born again’. (John 3: 3.)  All our former sins are forgiven and a new beginning takes place in our lives.  We are, as the writer above has indicated, placed in a ‘race, and we ‘would be pretty foolish if’ we ‘ran the first part of a race and then dropped out.’  But this is exactly what many Christians do!  They drop out of the ‘race,’ and lose the ‘prize’. (1 Cor. 24; Heb. 12: 1; Phil. 3: 13, 14.)


Now it should be common knowledge to every believer, that a "prize" is not a "free gift"; and unless we run according to the rules, it would be the height of folly on our part to assume we will automatically qualify for it. (Eph. 5: 5, 6.)


It will soon be that time of the year when preparations will take place for the International North West 200 Motorcycle Road Race.  The starting grid will be re-painted and freshly prepared; the circuit will be marked out with the usual signs; application forms will be completed by the competitors, and racing licenses submitted for careful inspection; sponsors will have been sought and found; motorcycles will be supplied and properly prepared; and, in short, everything else necessary for a competitor to enter the race in order to have any chance of winning a prize, will have to be done.


Now, spiritually speaking, all this and much more has already been done for every Christian.  In fact he/she is by grace, placed on the starting grid: we all have at our disposal everything necessary to compete in the race to win the prize.  How disappointing it must be for God to see so many of His redeemed people remaining in the same position they were in at the time of conversion, and, in some cases, without any desire to run in His race to win His prize!  There again, it must be said that the fault is not entirely theirs, for many are not being told that there is a race to run or a prize to be won.  "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so RUN THAT YE MAY ATTAIN" (1 Cor 9: 24).


Oh, what a tremendous responsibility rests upon all Bible teachers!  What courage is required to boldly declare the "whole counsel of God"! (Acts 20:27)  What care and attention to detail needs to be exercised in the study and exposition of the Holy Scriptures; and, most important of all, what a great privilege it is to be allowed to continue in the race, after so many past failures, and still have a living hope of finishing as an overcomer at last.


"As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3: 19, 20). See also:- Heb. 6: 1-6; Rev. 3: 21; Tit. 2: 13.)


2. It is now some weeks since I noticed, when walking past the old listed stone building which was once part of the now derelict hospital complex, that vandals had smashed almost all the glass in the upper windows.  The thought entered my mind: ‘Would this have happened, if it were occupied and in daily use?’  I had never seen a broken window in that building before its occupants left!


So the situation is similar in a believer’s life.  While the Holy Spirit is indwelling, wreck and ruin will be most unlikely.  That is to say, the obedient Christian will overcome all the difficulties and trying circumstances of life no matter how potentially destructive they may appear to be.  In Psalm 51, - (Written, ‘when Nathan the prophet came unto David, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.’) - we read: "Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; And TAKE NOT THY HOLY SPIRIT FROM ME" (v. 11, 12, R.V.) . And (In the N.T.) we read: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree. Him did God exalt with [at] his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.  And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the HOLT GHOST, whom God hath given TO THEM THAT OBEY HIM" (Acts 5: 29-32, R.V.). And again: "... Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense.  And again, The Lord shall judge His people.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of sufferings; partly, being made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used.  For ye both had compassion on them that were in bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one.  Cast not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of reward.  For ye have need of patience, that having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise" (Heb. 10: 30-36).  How sobering are all these words, when we realize that they are addressed to Christians!


How seldom, if ever, do we hear faithful exposition on the Scriptures cited above!  On the contrary, the usual impression given over and over again, is that a Christian cannot lose anything!  The Holy Spirit is said to be indwelling every believer, regardless of whether or not they are walking in obedience to the will of God.  It is also widely assumed and taught that all believers (on the basis of bare faith alone) will escape the Great Tribulation: and it is also taught and believed that when we die we will go immediately into the presence of God in Heaven - a doctrine which makes ‘death’ take the place of ‘resurrection,’ negatives numerous conditional passages of Scripture and implies that resurrection has already taken place! (2 Tim. 2: 18): it ignores the texts which speak of selective resurrection and selective rapture; and all of these errors, (which are so prevalent in Christendom today amongst ‘Protestants’) - could easily have been avoided if a little more attention was made of the context, and more faith exercised in what the Scriptures say. (Lk. 20: 35; Phil 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35b; Rev. 20: 4-6; Lk. 21: 34-36; Rev. 3: 10-12; cf. Jas. 1: 12; 1 Thess. 2: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 4, 5; Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21-29; 2 Tim. 2: 18. Etc.)


3. Let us ask ourselves the question: ‘Is it possible for a regenerate believer to find true happiness in a lifestyle of disobedience to the Word of God?’  God often gives people what they desire, but is that the same as what God desires for us?  It’s much easier to walk with a crowd than it is to walk alone; but the wise disciple of Christ will weigh up and see the outcome of the now popular course and will seek grace and strength to chose the right way.  That is, the way of true and lasting happiness.  May God, in His grace and mercy, grant both reader and writer the wisdom and strength to walk in it.


4. The Christian businessman/woman, engaged in running their business with a focus only on healthy profits; who are prepared to compromise and lower their Christian standards and principles in order to function on popular worldly standards; the unemployed believer, drawing unemployment benefit which he/she may not be entitled to, and at the same time, accepting additional payments for undisclosed work; the double standards exercised, and the spiritual blindness toward the eventual outcome of such lifestyles - are all what can be described as: ‘seasonal and in place today’.  But will it always be so?  Most certainly not!  Another day is hastening on - a day of reward "ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS". (1 Cor, 3: 13—15; Matt. 16: 25-27; Col. 3: 24; 2 Tim. 4: 14; Heb. 2: 2; Rev. 22: 12, etc,)  Then it will be evident and easy to distinguish then between the wise and the foolish. (Matt. 25: 1-11.)


All who seek and find true repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and power to run in the race according to the rules, will have a "Happy New Year". Christian! "Hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy CROWN" (Rev. 3: 11; 1 Cor. 9: 25; Jas. 1: 12; Rev. 2: 10, 11. etc.)