2019 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
BY THE RT. REV. PROF. J. O. Y. MANTE, PhD
MODERATOR OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF GHANA
THEME: WORSHIP, PEACE AND GOODWILL
TEXT: LUKE 2:13-14 – “And Suddenly There Was with the Angel a Multitude of the Heavenly Host Praising God and Saying: ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Goodwill Toward all People’”.
Christmas reminds us of a day we Christians have set aside to celebrate the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
Although no one knows the exact day when Jesus was born, He is just too important not to celebrate a birthday for Him.
Today, I wish to share with you my 2019 Christmas message for all peoples around the world, especially with those of you who are Christians. My name is The Rt. Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Worldwide.
THE MESSAGE OF THE ANGELS
Over two thousand years ago, on Christmas eve, something very special, something very unique happened to the world. On that day, an Angel from heaven appeared to some shepherds who were watching their flocks by night in faraway Palestine. When the Angels appeared, the glory of God shone around the shepherds and they were greatly terrified. So the Angel told the shepherds not to be afraid for, he said, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
While this Angel was speaking, he was suddenly joined by a host of other Angels who continually praised God, saying: “Glory to God in the Highest, And on Earth Peace; Goodwill to all People”.
MY MESSAGE TODAY
My message today is on the theme: Worship, Peace and Goodwill at Christmas. The three thematic areas are Worship, Peace and Goodwill.
The Angels at Christmas declared the glory of God and praised Him. This is the origin of the Christmas Eve Caro Services. It was started by Angels. At Christmas, we must give glory to God and worship Him. It is not enough to just do good deeds as Christians; God expects us to first and foremost praise and worship Him. By so doing we acknowledge His lordship over our lives. So let us not stop singing and praising God at Christmas and for the rest of our lives. When we sing and worship God at Christmas, and during our Carol Services, we join the Heavenly Hosts to prolong the beautiful carols sang on Christmas Eve to the hearing of the shepherds. Let us keep singing and worshipping God this Christmas and for the rest of our lives, saying, “Glory to God in the Highest”, for our God is the immortal, invisible and only wise God who dwells in inaccessible light. He is the creator and sustainer of the whole universe. Let us worship Him and give Him all glory and honor. Let us keep singing songs of praise to God during this Christmas season.
PEACE ON EARTH
The Angels also mentioned that with the coming of Jesus the Messiah there will be peace on earth. The Hebrew is the word Shalom which actually means harmonious living – living in harmony with yourself, with God, with other people and with the environment.
A good picture of the harmony that the Messiah brings is recorded in Isaiah. 11:6-9, which reads: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”
This is a good picture of non-violent harmony. It is best described in the Twi language as, “asomdwoe” – literally, “coolness of ears”. God expects that when we say that we have allowed Jesus to rule over our lives or our communities or our nations, practical non-violent harmony will be our portion and prevail among us.
May real peace and harmony rule over our churches and our nations as we celebrate Jesus who is the Prince or Architect of Peace, during this Christmas season.
So it is a pure contradiction if we declare that Jesus is the Lord of our lives and yet live with violent mindset. In the great picture of peace which we read from Is. 11:6-9, the contrasts are very fascinating:
The Wolf/ The Lamb
The Leopard/The Young Goat
The Lion/The Calf
The Bear/The Cow
The Cobra/The Baby’s Hand
They shall all dwell together and not hurt one another. They will all live in harmony.
If these contrasts can possibly live in non-violent harmony, then why can’t the following also live in harmony: NPP/NDC? The Hutus and Tutsi? Christians and Moslems? Republicans and Democrats? Whites and Blacks? Husbands and Wives? If we believe in the God of peace why should we form more vigilante groups? Why should we insult one another?
Anyone who says “I believe in God” but sets out to destroy godly peace is a liar. You can’t say you believe in God and then go ahead and murder innocent people or create violent political tensions with either your words or actions, or create violent marital tensions in your home. The God we say we believe in is a God of peace/shalom.
I pray to God that since Ghana is a godly country, 2020 shall be a year of real peace in our land. The Angels at Christmas said: “Peace on Earth”. I declare peace, real shalom, on our land; I speak against any voices of destruction and negativities in our land, and declare Divine peace on our land.
But if there will be peace in our society, we must individually have peace in our hearts. This inner peace comes by allowing Jesus to rule over our inner hearts, and by so doing imbibing and internalizing the values of Jesus as our values.
One of the greatest enemies of inner and outer peace is greed. Greed is the desire to possess this world’s goods and wealth without restraint. This is directly opposed to the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God exorcise greed from our hearts and from our society and fill us with us with a spirit of contentment at this Christmas, so that real peace will be our portion.
During this Christmas let us take steps to reconcile with all peoples that we were at loggerheads with. Let us do so before we enter the New Year.
GOODWILL TO ALL PEOPLE
The Angelic hymn indicated that when the Messiah comes, there will be goodwill to all people. This is not the “Ghanaian goodwill” which is usually equivalent to bribery. Biblical goodwill is rather an inner, moral disposition that wishes good things for others and for oneself.
When this is properly understood we will then be able to properly define Christian love as “consistent and continuous goodwill”.
Goodwill is better expressed in two major ways. One is through sincere verbal affirmations to others, and the other is sharing what we have with others. I encourage all of us to share some of our wealth, our material possessions, our time, our energies, etc. with others (especially the poor and needy) during this Christmas season. I wish to specifically ask all our churches to take a special offering during this Christmas for the poor and needy among us – both those inside and those outside the church. Won’t it be nice if for once we take an offering which we will not put into the church’s coffers but share it among the poor among us? Jesus will be very happy with us when we do that. That will be a powerful expression of the spirit of Christmas.
So during this Christmas, I encourage you to spend time to visit your family, your friends, and your neighbors; go and visit the sick the poor, the orphans, the widows, etc. By so doing, we will be joining the heavenly angels to sing the chorus: “goodwill to all people”.
May the worship, the peace and the goodwill proclaimed by the Angels over 2,000 years ago affect and infect us throughout our lives, and may we never stop singing this Christmas season.
I leave you with this great Christmas Carol:
While shepherd watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground;
The Angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around.
Sweet chiming Chrismas bells (2x)
They cheer us on our heavenly way
Sweet chiming Bells
All glory be to God on high and on the earth peace;
Goodwill henceforth from heav’n to men, begin and never cease.