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Church Message

Is Our Christmas Celebration ‘Up to Snuff?’
By Ronald Gallagher

Church message imageChurch sponsors jul17We commonly use phrases and terms with which we have no personal history or grasp of their original intent. For instance, I used the term "up to snuff” recently and had no idea how the phrase originated or why "snuff” should refer to anyone’s performance of anything. I thought about another term as I listened to a group singing "Joy to the World.” "Joy” is a familiar, pleasant-sounding word we use a lot this time of year. We spell it in lights, print it on cards, sing it in carols, and mention it in prayers. Yet in spite of that, we could be as detached from its original intent as most of us are from understanding where "up to snuff” came from.

The angel’s announcement of Jesus birth indicates that "joy” was prominent on God’s list of Christmas priorities. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV)

No doubt the joy that God attached to the coming of Jesus implied something far beyond the happy holiday feeling that we associate with it. And since joy was so prominent in God’s approach to that first Christmas, maybe we should consider what it meant to Him as our holiday festivities begin.

Things happen every Christmas that remind us that not everyone is singing "Joy to the World.” Instead of lights and tinsel and feasting on holiday treats, many are grieving terrible losses, suffering painful wounds, or facing dire circumstances. Many have little or no money to buy gifts-- or even food. So if Jesus was to bring "great joy” that would be extended to "all people,” just how are those people supposed to get in on it?

There are fascinating questions associated with "how” Jesus came, but the great question of Christmas is not "how” He came, but "why.” He came to bring the greatest "good news” imaginable to a people desperately in need of it. The joy Jesus offers is more than a transient holiday attitude, and the feelings it generates go much deeper. If we want to know what that joy feels like, we won’t find it by popping in at the office Christmas party and asking if everyone is having a good time.

If we want to know what Jesus intended joy to feel like, we won’t discover it by popping in at the office Christmas party. But we might get a hint if we visit a funeral chapel and ask a lonely, grieving widow how she would feel if she had a chance to embrace the love of her life again in a body free of pain and defects. Or maybe we could visit a wounded warrior in rehab and ask how it would feel to have legs again and live where wars don’t happen anymore. We could stand by a couple hopelessly watching their child suffering in pain and ask how it would feel to see their little one whole again and alive forever. We could listen to the sobs of some forgotten soul crying, alone and hungry in some homeless shelter and ask how it would feel to have a mansion of his own forever and live where no one is poor, or homeless, or hungry, and where no one will ever be alone or forgotten again.

Want to know what God’s kind of joy feels like? Ask the man born blind how it felt when light filled his eyes for the first time. Ask an outcast leper what it felt like to have his flesh restored and his life back. Ask the grieving mother what she felt when her dead son opened his eyes again. Ask Barabbas how he felt as he watched a cross built for him was laid upon the shoulder of the One who would die in his place.

Or maybe the best way to experience God’s kind of Christmas joy is to take an honest look in the mirror and ask how it would feel to stand before the One who knows every lie, every deception, every violated boundary, every act or thought of sexual misconduct, and every dishonest word or deed. Then consider the cross where He took our sentence upon Himself. He came for the broken, the helpless, the hopeless, the forgotten, the outcast, and the ruined — and He also came for you--and for me.

Yes, we can celebrate Christmas without thinking about any of that. We can have Santa Claus and reindeer, and sing "Joy to the World” with hardly a thought about why He came, or for whom. But if we ask God what He thinks about a Christmas like that, He might say, "It’s not even close to being ‘up to snuff’.”

In addition to being an active writer, speaker, teacher, and blogger, Ron Gallagher serves in a variety of roles as a ministry consultant for local churches. His Biblical insights are coupled with down-to-earth humor, satire, and relevant stories aimed at promoting "Right Side Up Thinking ~ in an Upside Down World.” Ron strives to apply God’s truth in a way that stimulates the mind, encourages the heart, and challenges the cultural norm.  Check out his blog, "Gallagher’s Pen” at

NEW BOOK . . .Ron’s new book, Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth, is now available on Amazon and through Lighthouse Bible Studies. Learn more at


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