Christmas: Good news for all people

Missions: The heart of God

"The angel said, 'Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.'" -- Luke 2:10, The Message

Christmas is about even more than the wondrous nativity scene. Some key details in the gospel stories of Jesus' birth highlight God's desire that His salvation "be known on earth . . . among all nations" (Psalm 67:2).

For starters, an angel said "all the people" to shepherds in fields near Bethlehem. That night, the angel could have said, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy." When he added "for all the people," he anticipated two thousand years of world evangelism efforts.

Following the nativity scene, Luke's gospel describes Jesus' Presentation in the Temple. Taking six-week-old Jesus in his arms, the elderly Simeon prayed over Him using Old Testament phrases: "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:30-32, with wording from places like Isaiah 49:6, 52:10 and Psalm 98:2-3). Simeon's expressions of joy at seeing the infant Messiah underscore God's heart for world missions.

As for Matthew's account of Jesus' birth, the genealogy in chapter one lists two women, Ruth and Rahab. Having two women in the genealogy might be unexpected since the other names in the list are of males. However, what is startling about the two female names is that both women were Gentile.

Matthew's gospel was likely originally written to show Jews that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. For what reason would Matthew insert the names of Gentile women - - including one of dubious character -- in the Messiah's genealogy? Did the Holy Spirit intend for this most-Jewish of the gospels to strongly emphasize that Jesus was to be the Messiah for all peoples?

Some Christians seem uncomfortable having a hated Moabite and a Jericho prostitute as Jesus' ancestors. It has therefore been argued that both women were really Jewish and that the Rahab of this list is not the one we encounter in Joshua 2. Of course, if the two women had been Jewish, and it was a different Rahab, there would be little reason to put them in an all-male list of ancestors.

Matthew is also the Gospel which tells the story of the visit of the Wise Men. In this very Jewish gospel, it was not Jewish VIPs who showed up to pay homage to Jesus. The visit of Gentile Wise Men from the East, like that of the names of Ruth and Rahab in the genealogy, signals that Jesus is the Messiah for all peoples.

A concern for world evangelism does not emerge only at the end of Jesus' earthly life with the giving of the Great Commission. The idea of "all" -- all people, all nations, all the earth -- resounds throughout Jesus' earthly life, beginning with some details in the Christmas story.

This 500-word mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage magazine.

What meaning does the pre-Christmas season of Advent have for us today?

Advent devotional thoughts: Are you ready for Christmas?

The King is coming. That's the message of Advent. Are you ready?

One day during a Christmas season when our children were small we were praying together. In that prayer I thanked the Lord for His presence with us and said "amen."

A split second after my "amen" our five-year-old daughter cried out, "Presents? Where are the presents?"

The prospects of His presence -- Emmanuel, God with you -- should excite us. We ought to be even more thrilled than my daughter was when she thought some gift-wrapped packages had arrived. This is the coming of our Redeemer, of our Savior, of our Passover Lamb. Are you excited? Are you getting ready?

There's a century-old invitation gospel song that goes: "There's a great day coming . . . Are you ready for that day to come?" That Wil Thompson song from the late 1800's grabbed at people s hearts. Thousands (and perhaps millions) have come to Christ as Thompson's lyrics were being sung. Admittedly, the words were not about Advent. They were asking about being ready for the Final Judgment Day. Still, the song's question can be used to reflect on the season of Advent: Are you ready? Am I ready?

The King is coming. Let's get ready.

Originally written for an Advent devotional booklet produced by Warr Acres (OK) Christ's Community Church of the Nazarene

"How do I say 'Merry Christmas in . . . ?"

Wishing people a "Merry Christmas" in 99 languages

"Good news of great joy that will be for all the people" -- Luke 2:10

Here's how to tell people "Merry Christmas" in their native language.

Note: Help me out! I tried to get all the transliterations correct for languages using a form of writing other than the modern Latin or Roman alphabet. If I messed up, please let me and I'll make corrections.

  1. Afrikaans - Geseënde Kersfees
  2. Albanian -- Gëzuar Krishtlindje
  3. Amharic - melikami gena
  4. Arabic - eid milad saeid
  5. Armenian - Shnorhavor Surb Tsnund
  6. Azerbaijani - Milad bayramınız mübarǝk
  7. Basque - Eguberri on
  8. Belarusian - Z Kaliadami
  9. Bengali (Bangla) - Śubha baŗadina
  10. Bosnian - sretan božić
  11. Breton - Nedeleg laouen
  12. Bulgarian - Vesela Koleda
  13. Catalan - Bon Nadal
  14. Cebuano - maayong Pasko
  15. Cherokee - Ulihelisdi Unadetiyisgv'i
  16. Chichewa, Chewa, Nyanja - Khrisimasi yabwino
  17. Chinese -
  18. Cornish - Nadelik Lowen!
  19. Corsican - bon Natale
  20. Cree - miyo-manitowi-kîsikanisik!
  21. Croatian - sretan Božić
  22. Czech - veselé Vánoce!
  23. Danish - Gladelig Jul
  24. Dutch - vrolijk kerstfeest
  25. Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon
  26. Estonian - häid jõule
  27. Finnish - Hyvää joulua
  28. French - Joyeux Noel
  29. Galician - Bo Nadal
  30. Georgian - shobas gilotsavt
  31. German - Froehliche Weihnachten
  32. Greek - Kala Christouyenna
  33. Gujarati - Mērī krisamasa
  34. Haitian Creole Jwaye Nwel
  35. Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka
  36. Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
  37. Hindi - Bada Din Mubarak Ho
  38. Hungarian - Kellemes Karácsonyi unnepeket
  39. Icelandic - Gleðileg Jól
  40. Igbo - ezi ekeresimesi
  41. Inupiaq (spoken by Inuit) - Nayaa mik Piqagiñ
  42. Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal
  43. Irish Gaelic - Nollaig Shona Dhuit
  44. Italian - Buon Natale or Buone Feste Natalizie
  45. Japanese - Kurisumasu Omedeto
  46. Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
  47. Kurdish (Kurmanji) - Kirîstmas piroz be
  48. Latvian (Lettish) - Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus!
  49. Latin - felicem natalem Christi
  50. Lithuanian - Linksmų Kalėdų
  51. Luxembourgish - Schéi Chrëschtdeeg
  52. Maltese - il-Milied it-tajjeb
  53. Manx Gaelg - Nollick Ghennal
  54. Maori - Meri Kirihimete
  55. Marathi - Shub Naya Varsh
  56. Mongolian - Zul saryn mend
  57. Myanmar (Burmese) - pyawshwinsaw hkarahchcamaat hpyitparhcay
  58. Navajo - Y 'át'ééh Késhmish!
  59. Nepali - Mērī krisamasa
  60. Northern Sotho - Matlhatse le matlhogonolo mo ngwageng o moswa.
  61. Norwegian - God Jul
  62. Pennsylvania Dutch (a dialect of German) - Frehlicher Grischtdaag
  63. Papiamento - Bon Pasco
  64. Persian (Farsi) - krismas mobaarak!
  65. Pig Latin - Errymay ristmaskay
  66. Polish - Weso ych Świąt
  67. Portuguese - Feliz Natal
  68. Punjab (Eastern) - Mērī karisamasa
  69. Rapa-Nui (Easter island) - Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi.
  70. Romanian - Cr&acaron;ciun Fericit
  71. Russian - schastlivogo Rozhdestva
  72. Samoan - manuia le Kirisimasi
  73. Scottish Gaelic - Nollaig Chridheil
  74. Serbian - sreć an Božić
  75. Singhalese - suba nattalak
  76. Slavonic - Christos Razdajetsja! Slavite Jeho!
  77. Slovak - "eselé Vianoce
  78. Slovenian - vesel božič
  79. Somali - Ciid wanaagsan
  80. Spanish - Feliz Navidad
  81. Sudanese - Wilujeng Natal
  82. Swahili (Kiswahili) - Krismasi Njema
  83. Swedish - god Jul
  84. Tagalog, Filipino - Maligayamg Pasko
  85. Tamil - Kiristumas vālttukka
  86. Telugu - Krismas śubhākāǹkșalu
  87. Turkish - mutlu Noeller
  88. Turkmen - Täze ýyl gutly bolsun
  89. Ukrainian - shchaslyvoho Rizdva
  90. Urdu - Bara Din Mubarak Ho
  91. Uzbek - Rojdestvo muborak
  92. Vietnamese - Giáng sinh vui vẻ
  93. Waray - Maupay nga Pasko
  94. Welsh - Nadolig Llawen
  95. Western Frisian - noflike krystdagen
  96. Xhosa - Ikrismesi emnandi
  97. Yiddish - lebedik nitl
  98. Yoruba - ikini dun keresimesi
  99. Zulu - Jabulela Ukhisimusi

I could easily have found one more language to get to an even 100. However, having a list of 99 seemed more unique!

    -- compiled by Howard Culbertson

What Does God Want for Christmas?

Leighton Ford asked Lausanne Movement leaders: "What does God want for Christmas?"

Executive director Michael Oh responded:

• The gospel for every person
• An evangelical church for every people
• Christ-like leaders for every church
• Kingdom impact in every sphere of society

What do passages from Psalm 22, 23 and 24 have to say to us at Christmas time?

Christmas reflections: Isn't it much more than "Sweet little baby Jesus"?

Psalms 22:1-5; 23; 24:7-10

22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises. 4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

23 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3    he refreshes my soul
. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

24 7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   be lifted up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory?
   The Lord strong and mighty,
   the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   lift them up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory?
   The Lord Almighty --
   he is the King of glory.

Week 51 (December)

It was my turn as pastoral counselor in the Florence evangelical social services center.

The three-member staff had just opened the doors and I was making small talk with them when Elena walked in.

An 18-year-old who had been involved in prostitution, Elena was now trying to find a way to put her life back together. She had made contact with the center a month earlier through its remedial night school. Since then she had come by several times to talk and even to pitch in on secretarial work.

I told her I'd like to get to know her better. So we went into the little library room and sat down. She talked for a long time about her life story. Then I began to ask her if she ever thought much about spiritual matters. She told me she always said a couple of "Hail Marys" at night but that she never went to church.

Then her dark eyes brightened: "But I do think often of Pope John XXIII. He saved my life!" Then she went on to tell me about a dream she had had in which this deceased Pope had spoken to her.

Finally I asked her what she thought of Jesus Christ..

Well, she never really thought much at all about Him. "He's the one we call the Lord, isn't He?" she asked.

Elena had no idea that God, through the events of that first, now offers us a personal relationship with Himself. It's a relationship that does not depend on a third party such as a dead Pope or Jesus' mother.

Some of the rich significance of the Incarnation is depicted in a trilogy of Psalms: 22, 23, and 24. Here are unfolded the sufferings, the shepherd-love and the Lordship of the Messiah whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

The way we celebrate Christmas often places a heavy emphasis on the Baby Jesus. A good deal of Christian art, particularly that produced by Roman Catholic artists, focuses on the Christ child.

However, the real story of Christmas is not that a baby was born. As an Italian evangelical recently wrote: "The exaltation of Baby Jesus is contrary to gospel teachings. The primary story of the New Testament is that of Jesus the adult. In fact, two of the Gospels do not even mention Baby Jesus."

It is possible that this Italian writer was reflecting a hyper sensitivity of the tiny Italian Protestant minority living in the shadow of the politically, religiously and economically powerful Vatican. However we evaluate what he wrote, we would do well to remember that the biggest news out of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago was not that a baby had been born. The news was that the promised Savior, Shepherd, and Sovereign had finally come.

That's good news for you and for me . . . and for a girl named Elena. As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas Day, let's use these three psalms (22, 23, 24) to remind us that God is really with us -- not just as a baby, but as a baby who came to become Deliverer, Shepherd, and Lord.

Would you also join me in a special prayer that soon Elena will come to know this Jesus as her Savior, Shepherd, and King, as she puts her broken life back together?

These devotional thoughts by Howard Culbertson appeared in Standard, a curriculum take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes published by what is now called The Foundry.

More Christmas resources:    The story behind "Silent Night"    Silent Night in Korean

Bible passages referring to Great Commission fulfillment   Doing missions well: Biographical sketches     Fiery global evangelism sayings     World missions slogans     Ideas shaping world mission outreach today