I love the holiday season! I also love the chaotic insanity that comes with it when friends and family gather, my kids and grandkids traipse in and out leaving behind a trail of leaves, mud and toys… well maybe I don’t like the trail left behind, but the joy of the visit is always welcome! It’s the season of lost senses. I love encouraging and being encouraged; bringing joy to someone if only for a fleeting moment. All of which lead me to a wonderful gift, given to every child of God, but not always used. The gift of exhortation.
The word “exhort” isn’t found in the Old Testament. Even a likeminded word like encourage is only found nine times. And most often refers to encouraging themselves or others in the service of the Lord. But “exhort” is found 33 times in the New Testament and usually in a context of encouraging the believers in service and faith in Christ. It’s first found, and not by chance I believe, at the onset of Jesus’ ministry.
Luke 3:15-18 ~ And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
The gospel of Christ is about to hit the scene, and John is the Master of Ceremony exhorting the people on what’s about to take place. It’s a new day! That Baby in the manger is now a grown Savior. He’s set forth a new standard that religion couldn’t hang with; the standard of grace. The ultimate gift that is non-refundable, paid for on the cross at Calvary by God himself. Our human, selfish selves can’t understand why He would choose to pay that price, but it should cause us to extend a hand of grace and mercy at every opportunity and should give us the desire to exhort one another in these trying days as we wait His return.
So how does one exhort one another during this crazy season?
It’s an indictment against our nation that the words “Merry Christmas” are considered offensive. So it’s important as Christians that we stand up for the rights given to us by Almighty God and those who have died for it on the battlefields of earth. I love wishing store clerks and businesses a “Merry or Blessed Christmas” whether or not they are allowed to reciprocate. I look forward to various church events and play that allow me to fellowship in faith. It keeps me ground in the purpose of the season. And most of all the Word of God should be given a place and time to exhort ourselves during this hectic time of year.
That word is almost as bad as a four letter word in the mouths of some Christian folk. We all want to receive it, but it’s not often we enjoy providing it. What if every wrong and hurt that came into our mind was followed by, “I forgive that,” and from there we just moved on. What joy would fill our hearts and homes and what new and wonderful works could God do with us?
It doesn’t cost anything more than time (and sometimes a little gasoline) to spend time with people we love and care about, and especially people who have no one to love and care about them. But the opportunity to exhort one another during this season abounds! Makes sure that the focus of this season isn’t on the monetary as much as the moments we get to share with one another.
Exhortation is a gift we’ve all been given. Let’s pass it round this season and make everyone’s Christmas merry and bright.