Christmas is here and despite the devastating pandemic, people are still obsessed with commercializing the holiday. Although many believers recite, “Jesus is the reason for the season,” they also are among the crowds flocking to the stores and overspending on gifts instead of rejoicing about the coming of Christ and what it means to the world.
Still, local pastors and ministers haven’t ceased to urge congregants to incorporate Christ into their celebrations and remember that His presence makes a tremendous difference in our lives. In fact, Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church, recommended that Christians always focus on “the kingdom perspective” when it comes to both daily living and current events.
Alluding to the impact of COVID-19, Ulmer said, “One of the most significant questions believers should be focused on in this unusual holiday season is, ‘Am I God’s Bethlehem?’ Can the presence and power of God and the love of Christ find a home in my life?”
He continued, “As Joseph and Mary traveled, looking for a place for the manifestation of the greatest love the world has ever known, they found rest in a little, off the road, rather insignificant town called Bethlehem, and there, God found a home.
“In this challenging season of turmoil, strife and unrest, God directed the one who carried His Son to a safe place of peace and joy. Can the world find the love of God in you, in your home; are you a modern day Bethlehem? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son – – – through you,” insisted Ulmer.
The Rev. Judi Wortham, an associate pastor at First AME Church of Los Angeles, advises believers to rejoice in the joy of the holidays. Citing Psalm 30:5 (“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning”) she noted, “My favorite word is JOY. Why? I learned that joy is different from happiness. Happiness is circumstantial, but joy in Jesus is a constant state of mind. It’s a place you can land on and live in.
“In these unprecedented times and in this unpredictable season, we must hold onto joy. The psalmist says it in crystal clear language, weeping may last the night. This pandemic has gone on way too long. In the midst of all that we are facing, we need to hold onto the last part of this verse, ‘but joy comes in the morning.’ The word doesn’t specify how long the night is or when morning is coming. We just know that morning is coming and with that comes joy,” added Wortham.
“When we choose joy, we can be prayer warriors. When we choose joy, we’re not perfect but we know God sees us as worth it. When we choose joy, we are gracefully broken, but beautifully standing,” Wortham said.
“When we choose joy, we are transformation. When we choose joy, we build arks before there is any sign of rain. When we choose joy, we are becoming our best version of ourselves. We look fear in the face and rise in faith,” she concluded. “Choose joy!”
The Rev. Shane B. Scott, senior pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, also reflected on the benefits of having joy throughout the holiday season.
“Christmas this year is particularly special. After a year of political upheaval and the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t help but find joy in this season,” Scott commented. “The opportunity to love on family, friends, and neighbors can’t be taken for granted!
“Pre-pandemic, the rat race of life caused so many of us to move hurriedly without much thought. Jobs, children’s activities, church, social clubs — all consumed us. I don’t believe God caused the pandemic, but I certainly believe He allowed it!”
Summing it all up, Scott said, “I’ve been able to re-center myself. I have re-valuated my life’s purpose and vision. My heart and mind is clear. All because of the pandemic. Not to mention that the Trump presidency is over. Hopefully, we can now move back to a place of decency, kindness, and respect.
“The Christmas season is all about the arrival of renewed hope. The birth of Christ gives us that hope! Hope for salvation; Hope for justice; Hope for economic equality; and Hope for peace! Jesus is the Hope of Glory! Merry Christmas from my family to yours!”
Another uplifting message came from the Rev. Terry Lovell Brown, Sr., pastor of Judson Baptist Church of Carson and Liberty Baptist Church of Los Angeles, who shared, “The Reason for the Season: Spread Love!
“While contemplating the first ‘COVID Christmas’ in our lifetime, it must be noted that this pandemic of disease is not the only deadly threat to our future. There are simultaneous pandemics that pre-exist and coexist with COVID-19,” Brown said.
“The pandemics of division – racism, sexism, classism – are all symptoms of a greater world-wide virus called Sin! Sin is a condition of a disobedient and defiant attitude that results in separation from God and one another,” he declared.
“The good news is that Christmas is upon us! If we would recognize and receive God’s purpose for the Advent season (Christ’s coming into the world), we would find a world where love, not hatred, rules. God’s greatest gift to humanity is the Christmas Gift named Jesus Christ! Based on John 3:16, we learn what love is, what love does and why love does what it does,” said the pastor.
“Number one, love seeks! ‘For God so loved the world.’ Number two, love sacrifices! ‘That He gave His only begotten Son,’ and three, love satisfies! ‘That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Spread Love!”