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Pastor Rudy Sheptock

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Life in 2020 has been anything but boring.  

Coming into this Christmas season, I keep hearing the word “canceled,” but you can’t cancel what this holiday encourages us to do with its title. Nothing can stop believers from celebrating their Savior. A pandemic can’t do it, and the chaotic state of politics is nothing new.  

As a matter of fact, the world Jesus was born into featured a King of Israel who had no true power. How crazy is it that the man called Herod the Great gave himself a nickname?  

There was nothing grand about the man who was in cahoots with Rome just to wear a title without substance. Caesar was the real emperor, and the Jewish people were held hostage by a government that they desperately desired freedom from. Interrupt me if this sounds familiar to the plight that we find ourselves in today. 

Unfortunately, too many people are currently driven by fear and are held hostage by their doubts about what is still to come. The reality for Christians, though, is that nothing can thwart God's promises. There is nothing that has occurred this year that is bigger than what our Lord can handle.  

The Bible makes it clear that when we surrender our hearts to Jesus, we are no longer citizens of earth, but now officially those whose real home is heaven, where God is eternally on the throne. In the halls of glory, faith keeps us moving forward, no matter what obstacles may attempt to impede our pilgrimage. 

How many more yuletide seasons will it take before you realize that no matter how big or expensive the presents under the tree might be, they will never satisfy the aching hunger in your soul? For God so loved the world that He did so much more than get us a gift card. In light of eternity, the presence of the One who died upon the tree is what gives us hope for the future, no matter how frustrating today is.  

My favorite part of Handel’s Messiah is the point in the Hallelujah Chorus when the words of Revelation 11:15 are sung in the middle of the song. To refresh your memory, the verse, in its promised power, says, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, 'the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.'"  

Christmas is never canceled for those who have received Jesus as king. Christmas is never over for those who have chosen to act as a citizen of God's kingdom.  

Maybe this Christmas, we should make an appointment for more than just a COVID test. Rather than looking for protection, I propose we cry out for a holy anointing. What if this December, we sidestep Santa and ask the Holy Spirit to make us ready to represent our Lord in amazing and awesome ways?  

In 1 Peter 2:9, the apostle declares, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” As royal priests, we have divinely designed duties destined for this December. I want this world to see how different it can be when we decorate our days with gifts from God. 

Instead of giving people what they want, I want to serve those around me with what they need.  

Without grace, there can be no salvation. Without truth, there can be no freedom. Without invitations, there can be no place reserved at the banqueting table.  

Rather than passing the buck, let’s call for the ball to be in our court so we can shine with the love God liberally spills into our souls. Who needs prayer and could benefit from a random act of kindness that comes with no strings attached?  

The angels woke the shepherds so that they could witness Jesus' birth. Those whose profession was the most despised occupation in Israel were treated like VIPs. God doesn’t judge by what the labels say on the outside. He is always searching for hearts willing to be wholly available to Him. 

I laugh whenever I hear a governor try to outlaw singing. If there was ever a moment in history where we need to raise our voices loud and proud, it is now. I’m sure all of hell would love to edit Christmas carols from the program, but it can’t happen.  

God inhabits the praises of His people, so go tell it, on the mountain, over the hills, and everywhere, that Jesus Christ is born and is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”  

We were created to be with our Creator. We are our best when we spend as much time as we possibly can with the One who loved us the most. Jesus is the One who loved us as love was always intended to be. 

In many ways, we are like campaign managers for the King of Kings. The biggest difference is that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Him to be the ultimate ruler, no matter how we vote. What the world needs now is to operate under a theocracy where we are one world under the Lord’s reign. This will occur someday in the future, but until then, when you cast your allegiance to Jesus, you win.  

Much of what we lack can be traced to the fact that we follow our flesh rather than His holiness. One day, His will and way will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Until then, we never settle for anything less than God’s best. 

This is a December I want to hang out with the One who made the King's celebration possible. The more I submit my agenda to His lead, the closer I am drawn to His heart. We don’t just get the honor and privilege to work for God; the biggest perk is we get to be with Him as we do it. 

Years ago, when I took my first job as a youth pastor, the church I was at paid only enough money that I actually reinvested into my ministry. I needed another job to pay the bills for my new wife and myself. I became the head custodian at Lake Drive School, in Mountain Lakes, and I was the head custodian because I was the only custodian.  

The staff meetings I had with myself were priceless. I got to do something no custodian before or after me could.  

The superintendent of buildings and grounds had his office in my school. Every day, I got to have lunch with him. Every day at noon, I hung out with the boss. Did I mention the boss also happened to be my father?  

The best part of that year was the time I got to be with my dad. When was the last time you just hung out with your Heavenly Father?  

He has an open spot with your name on it. If we want the anointment, maybe we should keep the appointment with the One who put the color into Christmas in the first place. 

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House. 

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