General André Cox, international leader of The Salvation Army, has shared his vision for the Christmas season with the following message:
It is with hearts filled with thanksgiving and praise to God that we should enter this Christmas season. I hope we will all take time to reflect and contemplate the everlasting love and eternal plan of salvation that God has prepared since the beginning of time for all mankind.
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We certainly have had ample opportunity to reflect on the boundless love of God to The Salvation Army throughout this milestone year of the 150th anniversary celebrations. Once again, now, we think of the extravagant love of God who gave us the greatest gift of all, knowing full well that most of us would not realise the value.
Isaiah wrote: ‘He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem’ (Isaiah 53:2-3).
Despite it all, God still went ahead with his plan of salvation for the world! That is why Christmas is such a special time. The extraordinary revelation is that God sees things differently from us.
One of the first things Mary says in her song of thanksgiving to God is: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant’ (Luke 1:46-48).
We see here a clear distinction between the values of God and those of mankind. God is ready to give his all to save men and women like you and me. God is the God of eternity, he is the Almighty and yet he shows his love and concern for weak, imperfect human beings.
The subject of great joy expressed by Mary is a subject of great joy for us all. Yet she continues with another outpouring of thanksgiving and joy: ‘For the Mighty One has done great things for me …’ (Luke 1:49).
One of the elements of the Christmas story which never ceases to amaze me is to think that God is such a great and powerful being, yet he still is interested in us. That is why Mary rejoices and why we should rejoice as we look forward to celebrating the coming of Christ that changed the course of human history. God is ready to stoop down and even to use imperfect men and women to accomplish his plan.
Despite his power, God is happy to show mercy to the small, insignificant and imperfect people that we are. People give honour and glory to what appears to be powerful and wealthy in this world. God does exactly the opposite. God looks at humanity with love and mercy, which is what the story of Christmas is all about.
God turns the value scales upside down and shows his love for the small, the humble and the seemingly insignificant. We need to examine our hearts as we prepare for Christmas so we can eliminate all thoughts of pride and any spirit of materialism because, in reality, whether we are princes or paupers – or the General of The Salvation Army – we are pretty insignificant!
Christmas is about the fact that God came specifically to establish a relationship with us, and his glory is manifested in the lives of ordinary humble people. Christmas is a time of great joy and peace for all mankind.
I pray that we will experience the wonder of that reality in our lives this Christmas time and that we will show it wherever we are!