Christmas “Charity”

Christmas “Charity”

 

The word charity became most famous in the English language by its use in the King James Version of the Bible, especially in Paul’s chapter on love….

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

He goes on to describe the characteristics of “charity” which we will read in a few minutes

The problem with the word “charity” is that it has suffered some disuse as the word love has replaced it in modern translations.

And “love” can and does shave so, so many meanings in our world today

MSG: “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Today, as a result, charity has become a catch-all term to describe nonprofit organizations that help the poor and needy.

But charity is really a good word — a strong, proactive word

Its roots are in the Latin words for affection (“caritas”) and dear (“carbs”)

We talked about “affection” last time we were together

It’s not best used to describe an organization — a charity — but rather to describe an action — a charitable act or gesture, motivated by genuine affection, caring, love

Since 1950 the word charity has been personalized by the actions of the Missionaries of Charity, which began with 12 workers in Calcutta.

Today there are 4,500 workers all over the world continuing the work of Mother Teresa

And what was her work?

In her own words, it was to love and care for (extend charity to) “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

We should all be challenged by Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity…

And we have to admire their willingness to go looking for ways to extend the love of God

They don’t sit back and wait for the needy to come to them

They go out into the streets of the world’s largest cities and find those who have been “shunned by everyone” — and bring them in and meet their needs

That is the true heart of biblical charity — now referred to as love

God didn’t wait for the human race to come to Him for help

He sent forth His Son into the world to seek out and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10)

God’s charity — His agape love — was the reason for the first Christmas

We see this is the most famous Bible verse of all …

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

At that first Christmas, there was a young couple who had been “shunned by everyone”

A young couple who were engaged but not married

A young girl – age 14 – who was pregnant out of wedlock which in that day was a sin

They had journeyed for days to get to Bethlehem, although it was a rough trip because Mary’s baby was due at any moment

Bethlehem was a small village to begin with, and had been swollen by others like Mary and Joseph who had travelled to the village of their forefather, David, to register for the Roman census

There, in the streets filled with all of Joseph’s cousins, they wondered where they would find a place for Mary to rest — and probably deliver her baby

Luke is precise in his language when he says there was no room for them “in the inn” (Luke 2:7)

The suggestion is that Bethlehem had only one inn where travellers might stay the night, and it was full when Mary and Jospeh arrived

Perhaps they had looked all over town for a place to stay 

Perhaps they pleaded with the innkeeper for something, anything

Perhaps the innkeeper saw Mary’s bulging robes, her stooped posture, her hand on her stomach

Whatever the reason, the innkeeper helped the young couple who would soon be parents

He led them to the stable, perhaps the place where guests at the inn kept their animals, and helped arrange a place for Mary to rest

It wasn’t much, but it was a roof over their head and dry straw under their feet — and a manger  for the baby (a feeding through for the animals), should Mary deliver the baby that night.

It wasn’t much, but the innkeeper did what he could

He showed “charity” to Mary and Joseph and Jesus

Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” is as good a human illustration of charity as we will ever find

Luke 10:30-37 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Before the Samaritan (a social outcast among the Jews) encounter the man who had been attacked, robbed, and left for dead

Two others (religious people) had passed by and done nothing

But the Samaritan crossed the road and extended love and compassion — “charity”

He bandaged the man and took him to an inn and paid for his room and board while he recovered 

He couldn’t do everything, but he did what he could

And Jesus concluded the story by saying. “Go and do likewise”

Last time together we chatted about “affection” 

“A tender feeling toward another”

“A disposition to feel, to do, or to say…”

And I commented that love was affection on steroids…

And that we are called to be lovingly affectionate at this special time of the year … and year-round

1 Corinthians goes on to describe the love of God — this “loving affection” — the way we are to love … in part it states:

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG)

We are called to be lovingly affectionate at this special time of the year … and year-round

And this concept of “Christmas charity” seen in the story of the Good Samaritan and Joseph and Mary in the stable — fits right into this idea of “charity” being love in action…

All around us at Christmas this year will be those less fortunate than we are

We can pass by on the other side of the road — or — we can cross over and do what we can do to make their life and their Christmas more comfortable

Charity (love) towards others in practical AFFECTION and caring, based on the active response of Christ to our needs

In other words, doing what the Good Samaritan did … who crossed over the road and met a need because he could

Better yet, doing what Jesus did … who crossed over and became one of us to meet our need

John 1:1-5, 9-18 MSG “The Word was first,

the Word present to God,

God present to the Word.

The Word was God,

in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him;

nothing—not one thing!—

came into being without him.

What came into existence was Life,

and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;

the darkness couldn’t put it out …

The Life-Light was the real thing:

Every person entering Life

he brings into Light.

He was in the world,

the world was there through him,

and yet the world didn’t even notice.

He came to his own people,

but they didn’t want him.

But whoever did want him,

who believed he was who he claimed

and would do what he said,

He made to be their true selves,

their child-of-God selves.

These are the God-begotten,

not blood-begotten,

not flesh-begotten,

not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

John pointed him out and called, “This is the One! The One I told you was coming after me but in fact was ahead of me. He has always been ahead of me, has always had the first word.”

We all live off his generous bounty,

gift after gift after gift.

We got the basics from Moses,

and then this exuberant giving and receiving,

This endless knowing and understanding—

all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

No one has ever seen God,

not so much as a glimpse.

This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

who exists at the very heart of the Father,

has made him plain as day.”

Christmas is a good time to reflect on these key verses that should form the foundation of our Christmas celebrations…

And yet almost everything we do to celebrate the birth of Jesus does not reflect the true meaning of this world-changing event of the birth of Jesus

One verse in the Bible tells us exactly how to celebrate Christmas and who better than Mary herself to set the example?

Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”

And so, for many decades I have spent time each Christmas pondering the depth of love (charity) that God has for us – love (charity) that is seriously expressed in these words from John, Chapter one

Like Mary, I stop often during the Christmas season to ponder these things …

Pondering is a word worth pondering

According to the dictionary it means “To weigh in the mind, to think about, to reflect on.”

This describes a Biblical pattern for life, for the Psalmist wrote:

“Reflect in your heart and be still … I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions … I reflect on the work of Your hands” (Psalm 4:4; 77:12; 143:5 HCSB)

The book of Ecclesiastes states:

“Sober reflection is good for the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:3 NET)

There are lots of ways to practice the art of personal reflection during the holidays and year round for that matter…

I personally find late in the evening when the motion and commotion of the day is done; when I can sit in a comfortable chair, blanket over my knees, and my Bible along with a cup of hot chocolate and just one light on over my shoulder 

A time to let the world go, drop the cares and hassles of the day, and simply reflect and ponder

At this time of the year I ponder on the words and actions of the Christmas story and the many people involved in this amazing intervention of God into human history

Specifically this year: 

“We got the basics from Moses,

and then this exuberant giving and receiving,

This endless knowing and understanding

all this came through Jesus…”

It takes discipline and effort to manage “reflection” because everything seems to fight against it

Someone recently write:

“Christmas has really become a hopeless muddle of confusion. The humility and poverty of the stable are somehow confused with the wealth and indulgence and selfishness of gift giving. The quietness of Bethlehem is mingled with the din of shopping malls and highway traffic. The soberness of the Incarnation is somehow mixed with the drunkenness of this season” (Dr. John MacArthur, “Incarnation of the Triune God”)

The paradox of Christmas is heard in the sounds of today — the honking of horns, the jingling of bells, the laughing of children

The strains of the carollers, the “Ho, ho, ho” of mall Santas and Christmas shoppers being rude and pushy

It’s all part of the frenzy of the season

Yet, as far as I am concerned, the best Christmas moments are the quiet ones

And the best reflection of the Christmas story take place in the mirror of our own hearts

I pray that this Christmas you will find a quiet place to be still in the presence of Jesus and allow Him opportunity to speak personally to you as you celebrate His birth in Bethlehem so many centuries ago — Merry Christmas