"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:28-29
This particular weekend during my sophomore year of high school changed my view on a lot of things: bikes, rain, and Coca-Cola. My friend’s scout troop was going on a campout much different from any other we had attended. The objective was to conquer a 50-mile bike ride in one day down the Longleaf Trace in Hattiesburg, MS. Of course, being invincible teenage boys, my friends and I signed up without hesitation.
We arrived in Hattiesburg on a Friday night and camped. The following morning, we started bright and early (around 8:00 am) to start the ride. Our Scout leaders warned us and tried to prepare us by telling us what we needed to wear and pack, but we were all-knowing teenagers and didn’t heed their advice. The bike ride started off easy, but as we made our way into mile four, it started to rain. This wasn’t your typical rain shower, though—instead, it was an annoying mist that stung when it hit your skin… and continued for the entirety of the trip. After mile 15, we started to get hungry, and wished we had brought our rain jackets like we had been told. By mile 31 with no food, water, or raincoats, we were miserable! We wanted the journey to end quickly. It was too late to turn back now—our rides were waiting on us at the mile 50 outpost. At some point, each one of us had a semi-controlled teenage temper tantrum of frustration, hunger, and desire for dry clothes. In summary, the trip was horrible! We all boisterously whined—why had we decided to do this anyway?
BUT THEN, when we got to mile 50, I saw something that I will never forget. An effervescent glow through the mist, shining with beauty at the rest stop: a Coca-Cola vending machine! I purchased five Coca-Cola’s in a row. After the exorbitant purchase, my friends and I leaned up against the rest stop walls and silently drank. Glancing at each other, almost telepathically, we agreed that the Coca-Cola’s made the never ending journey worth it. To this day, it is the best Coca-Cola I have ever had.
Occasionally my friends and I still talk about how humorous that trip was and how the vending machine “saved our lives”. For the Christian, the adventure may not be something we are expecting—there are many dangers, many toils, many snares—but in the end, we have the greatest reward that cannot be shaken that is a whole lot better than a Coca-Cola vending machine! The reward is eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. As we start the New Year, I pray that we all strive for the reward found only in Jesus and nothing else, because with him, “nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men. And being found in
human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to
the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
The hot cocoa was poured into the thermos.
The blankets were ready. We had a few Christmas CDs already waiting in the car. It was time for two things: driving around town looking at Christmas lights and Belhaven University's “Singing Christmas Tree”. First, we grabbed dinner, giving us the energy to give delightful commentary and suggestions about the Christmas lights we saw all throughout town. Some of the houses would make anyone kin to the Griswold's proud, while others seemed to be related to Ebenezer Scrooge or inspired by the Twilight Zone, only causing us to scratch our heads and ask, “Why?”
After observing memorable light displays and giving our personal feedback, our next stop was Belhaven University.
The first weekend of December on the soccer fields, Belhaven continues a tradition that has been going for 75+ years:
the Singing Christmas Tree. Before us was a wooden bleacher platform stretching thirty-five feet into the air in the shape of a Christmas Tree. What’s the appeal? The Belhaven Choir adorned themselves in white robes, tinsel tiaras, and lights on the wooden bleachers and for the next hour sang wonderful Christmas hymns and carols. Of course, you had “Jingle Bells”,
“Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and many others, but the performance wasn’t
Christmas without “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the grand finale
(which my wife sang at the top of the tree in 2008 during her time at Belhaven) “O Holy Night”.
I’ve gone to the Singing Christmas Tree for many years. It is a wonderful tradition to keep during Christmas.
The reason I go back is not because of the impressive light display while the choir sings, the hot cocoa in our thermos, or the blankets to keep us warm—I keep going back because it is a reminder of what Jesus has done for me. It is a reminder of everything he went through during his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. You can only sing about a snowman for so long. You can only say “Happy Holidays” for so long. BUT with Jesus, there is eternal joy and eternal traditions that never fade away. Why do we decorate a Christmas tree every December? Why do we put lights on our houses? Is it because there’s nothing else to do? Is it simply the cultural “norm”, or are we celebrating and commemorating something far superior?
Christmas is a time where we are reminded (more than usual) that we are what we are
not because of anything we have done, but as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, because of God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10).
As Timothy Keller writes, “The Light of the world descended into darkness in order to bring us into God’s beautiful light.”
The light of Christmas, the reason for the season, Jesus Christ, our Yahweh and KING.
Let’s remember that and never be ashamed to say, “Merry Christmas!”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.