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Keeping Christmas

Keeping Christmas poster

In looking back over the files of The Moody Church News, my own heart was stirred by a sermon preaching in 1925 by my revered predecessor under whom the present building was erected, Dr. P.W. Philpott. We are reproducing it in this issue because of its intrinsic value, feeling sure it will prove to have a real message for many of our present day readers. Dr. Philpott, we rejoice to say, is still “going strong” and is being blessedly used of God in his nation-wide evangelistic and Bible teaching ministry.—Harry A. Ironside

As we read again the sweet story of Christ’s birth—a story as pure and undefiled as He of whom it is written—some thoughts are suggested as to how we should keep the Christmastide.

Like the Manger

Let us keep it like the manger. “Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” “There was no room for him in the inn.” The caravansary in Bethlehem was crowded with merchants and travelers and the very best that the world could offer God’s Son was in a stall in a stable. There was no room for Him when He came from the bosom of the Father; no room for Him during the years of His earthly ministry of healing the sick, feeding the poor, lifting the fallen, saving the sinful, always loving and always giving; He was crowded out.

It would appear as we read the gospels that He spent most of His nights in the open air. “Foxes have holes,” He said, “and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Yet it was His world by right of creation. “All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” He came to His own—His own world—and His own received Him not. And after all these centuries of Gospel light, of preaching and of education, He is still “despised and rejected of men.” He is still seeking to enter homes and hearts, but oh, how few there are who welcome Him!

The story is told of a preacher in an English city who was giving a stereopticon lecture on the life of Christ to a great congregation of working people. As he concluded, Holman Hunt’s picture of the thorn-crowned Christ standing at the barred door was thrown upon the screen. So real did Christ’s presence seem that a hush fell upon the vast audience. The speaker sensed it and remained silent for a few minutes. In the stillness a little girl on the front seat asked her father in a stage whisper, “Daddy, why don’t they let Him in?”

And the father replied, “Hush, child, that is only a picture.”

But more insistent than ever the little one said with great distress in her voice, “Daddy, I am sure they hear Him knocking. But they don’t want Him in, do they?”

Alas, alas! This is our sin. We hear Him knocking; we know He is standing at the door, but we don’t want Him in. It is a terrible thing to be without the light and have to carry the burden of sin through life. But oh, what a tragedy to have the light, to know that Jesus is seeking admission to our home and our life, and to deliberately keep Him outside the door!

Like the Star

Let us keep Christmas like the star—His star—leading men to Him. “We have seen his star,” said the wise men, “and we are come to worship.” This is a day of stars; movie stars, football stars, baseball stars, etc. These shine for a brief day and are soon forgotten, but His star will “Shine forever and forever” His star shines only for Him and is pointing only to Him. As long as the wise men followed the star they were right and they were happy, but when they turned to Herod and the rabbis they stumbled in the dark and lost the light they had. But when they turned from the king, “lo! the star went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was.” That is the mission of “His Star”—leading men to the Christ.

I read a sweet story the other day of a little girl named Fannie who loved to read to her grandfather who was ill. She would sit down by his bedside and say, “Shall I read my story to you, Grandpa!”

The story to which she referred was that in the New Testament which begins, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.”

She called it “my story” because she liked it so well and she never tired of reading it. One day when she finished reading she said, “Grandpa, you are a wise man and you did not have to take a long journey to find Jesus, like the wise men I was reading about, did you?”

What makes you think I did not?” asked the old man with a trembling voice.

Because,” she said, “Jesus stays right by us all the time so we have only to whisper to Him and He hears us.”

The days went on and one evening not long after this all the family gathered around grandfather’s bed to say good-bye to him before he passed over the river. When he came to speak to little Fannie he laid his hand gently on her head and said “Goodbye my darling. When I get to heaven I will tell the blessed Saviour that you were my star.”

O, Grandpa, why?” asked Fannie as the tears streamed over her face.

Because, darling, you led me to Jesus just as the star you have so often read about which led the wise men to Him. And your light shone so steadily that I could not lose my way.”

Sometimes children are the brightest stars of all!

Like the Wise Men

Let us keep Christmas like the wise men, coming to Him in the spirit of true worship and adoration, bringing to Him the best we have. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” As I read this verse the Holy Spirit whispers, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Like the Shepherds

Let us keep it like the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks by night on those hills of Judea. “They hurried to the place where He was and they made known abroad the saying which was told them: “For unto you is born this day—a Saviour which is Christ the Lord.” About all that most persons know about Christmas is that it is a time to give and receive gifts—the gifts of men. But from the shepherds we got another conception of this glad day. They made known abroad that the Saviour has come, and this is the chief business of Christmas.

Like the Angels

Let us keep Christmas like the angels, singing and praising God for the gift of His love. Surely we have something to sing about for “we have found Him.” We know that He can meet the need of every human heart, that He can solve our problems, that He can satisfy every longing. “He that drinketh of the water that I shall give,” said Jesus, “shall never thirst.”

What a message those angels brought to a lost world: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.”

The Clamant Call for the New Year

One often wonders what would happen if all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth would, irrespective of any doctrine or denominational difference, lay aside all other things and come in the closing hours of this year with one great purpose, one burning heart desire, to the throne of grace seeking from the heavenly Father an outpouring of His Holy Spirit. The very thought of what would take place is soul thrilling.

The importance placed upon prayer throughout the Bible and by every great spiritual leader since the days of Jesus is one of the very remarkable features of church history; indeed, the unanimity of the testimony to its necessity is startling. What a large place prayer had in the ministry of our precious Lord and in the lives of those mighty men who moved the masses and whose fruit abides after many days. Church history confirms the maxim, “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” It releases the energies of the eternal God and sets in motion generating and controlling forces that are supernatural and divine. It promotes the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace and such unity and such peace will constitute the testimony which the world most needs.

Not a few Christians in our day are burdened over the distressing condition of both the church and the world. Never was the clear, true testimony of the glorious Gospel of God more needed than in this hour. Never was it more important that all who love our Lord and Savior and desire to extend His kingdom should be one in spirit and in truth.

What to Do

Pray ye, therefore,” said Jesus, and He never gave an unnecessary command. There is a deep meaning in these words that we have not comprehended, a reason we cannot quite fathom. But this we do know: The harvest cannot be gathered without intercessory prayer. Wesley rose for prayer at four o’clock each morning during the last forty years of his life. Luther never gave less than three hours each day to intercession. Great as these men were natively, they could do nothing without much prayer. “Pray ye” is more than an exhortation; it is a command just as surely as “go ye” and “Do this in remembrance of me.”

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. These are wonderful words. They are God’s words. They are explicit and definite as to the conditions and assurance of blessing. At our Watch Night services shall we not come together, bowing low before Him, confessing our sins and the sins of our people and expecting great things from God?

Oh! for a heart that is burdened,
Infused with a  passion to pray;
Oh! for a striving within me,
Oh! for His power each day;
Oh! for a heart like my Saviour,
Who being in agony prayed;
Such caring for others, Lord, give me,
On my heart let the burden be laid.

My Father, I long for this passion,
To pour out myself for the lost—
To lay down my life to save others—
To pray, whatever the cost!
Lord, teach me, Oh! teach me this secret,
I’m hungry this lesson to learn;
This passionate passion for others,
For this, blessed Jesus, I yearn—
Father, this secret I long for from Thee:
Oh, let Thy Spirit reveal it to me.