What thoughts does the title of this Praiseletter create in your mind? What if, in fact, you knew or strongly supposed that this Christmas would be the last Christmas? What would change, and how differently would you approach this coming holiday season celebrating the birth of Christ?
Initially, while contemplating writing this last letter of the year, which by the way is Praiseletter #245, dating all the way back to 1981, I thought of just titling it Merry Christmas. It occurred to me that just writing a warm Christmas greeting to all of our dear friends, reflecting on some of the memories of the past year and past Christmases, and directing our focus once again on the real meaning of Christmas might be enough.
Linda and I do want to sincerely wish for you and yours a truly Merry Christmas. We want to somehow express to you how much your friendship and partnership with our ministry means to us. We see all the letters, emails, and posts that assure us of your love, your prayers, and your support. Thank you is not an adequate expression of our gratitude, but from the bottom of our hearts (to the top)…Thank you!
The beautiful handmade cards and pictures we receive from Craig and Sheri adorn our tabletops and desks. They bring blessing and beauty to our lives! Rick and Melodie hold the record for most Dallas Holm concerts attended…over one hundred and counting. Their Christmas and birthday cards, their encouragement, and their friendship are a gift of far greater value than anything that will lay under our Christmas tree.
Ed and Pauline send us a note every month assuring us of their love and prayers. This genuine love was expressed so tangibly a few years back when, while ministering near where Ed and Pauline live, our son Jeffrey was struck for the first time with a severe panic attack while traveling with me. Not knowing what was happening, we took Jeffrey to the ER for assessment. While waiting on doctors, nurses, and test results, Ed and Pauline sat in the waiting room and prayed for us. I’m pretty good with words, but I simply have no words to express what that act of love meant to us.
I could go on and on with similar stories and accounts of love, encouragement, and support expressed by so many just like you! I wish I could. Linda and I see and know your names. We read what you write. We’re aware of your unwavering and often longtime support of our ministry. Again…thank you!
We, therefore, do wish you a very Merry Christmas. But…what if this is the last Christmas? Why would I ask such a question? We know this: one day there will be a last Christmas. Why not this one?
Is there anything that would suggest we might be coming to the “finish line”? If your eyes and ears are open, if you’ve been paying attention, especially in the last couple years, you must have noticed the increase in evil, the violence, and depravity that is on full display all around us, and the acquiescence to such sinfulness by those in governmental authority and even in church leadership. Scripture is pretty clear about what the world will look like before Jesus returns. What we’re seeing play out all around us on a daily basis seems to fit the biblical description of the end times, does it not?
On October 7th, we saw the horrific, unspeakable, and unimaginable atrocities visited upon Israeli citizens by terrorists of the worst kind. As we’ve heard the reports and witnessed the reality of babies being slaughtered on October 7th, we too remember the slaughter of babies by Herod around the time of Christ’s birth. Evil persists!
As I write this letter, the war rages on and strongly hints at expanding into a much larger, if not global, conflict. We are accelerating towards the “finish line” it seems to me. I’ve lived in Texas for many years now. I like to think that perhaps at this very moment, if we could peer into Heaven, we would see them “saddling up the horses,” getting “ready to ride,” if I can put it in Texas terms.
I believe in the Rapture, or “catching away,” of the saints…the true Church. Paul instructs the church of Thessalonica concerning this matter when he writes, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord” I Thessalonians 4:16-17.
This is not referring to the Second Coming when Christ returns to earth with the saints. I believe this “catching away” to meet Him in the air occurs before the Great Tribulation. I know there are several different views on these events. I have very dear friends, for whom I have the utmost respect and appreciation, who believe the church will go through the tribulation.
There’s so much we could discuss about this, but let me just offer that in view of the fact that the Great Tribulation is an outpouring of the wrath of God, such as the world has not seen; it seems inconsistent to view the cross as the place where God’s wrath toward sin was satisfied “once for all,” only to be revisited upon the redeemed in the time of the Great Tribulation.
I realize I will probably receive letters and emails offering differing opinions on this matter, but that is, in its simplest form, my understanding of these events.
Why do I share this at this time? Because no matter how you view the chronology of these end times events, I believe we can all agree that what we are witnessing on the world’s stage strongly suggests the end is near. I don’t know when the Lord will return, nor do you. However, we do know this; that we are far closer to His return than any people have ever been!
So…back to the original intent of this letter. What if this is the last Christmas?
Would you spend more money on bigger presents? Would you decorate your house more extravagantly? Would you get a bigger tree and have a better Christmas party?
I suspect that none of these things would matter much if this was the last Christmas. Let’s be encouraged and challenged more to consider with greater clarity and passion our being given the greatest gift ever! Let us look for ways to share that most precious gift of Jesus with others.
Last of all, let us discern by the truth of His Word and His Spirit that indwells us, the signs of the times, that are brighter and clearer than the most extravagant display of Christmas lighting!
Let’s celebrate the season and focus on its true significance as though it was The Last Christmas! It may just be.