Don’t Stop Short of Jesus this Christmas

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good- will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

On Christmas Eve, 1863, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote these words while still mourning his wife’s death and aiding with his son who had been wounded in the Civil War. These words ring of comfort, hope, and peace. To a war-torn audience from the already famous poet, Longfellow’s poem landed upon lives desperately needy of the hope echoed though each line.

Only, the peace Longfellow alludes to rings hollow. You see, he was not a believer in Jesus. His Unitarian beliefs did not grapple with a world fallen into the throws of great sin requiring a great Savior. He looked hopefully to the mountain side on the night of Jesus’ birth to grasp the powerful words, “Peace on earth, good will to men!” yet tragically stopped short in his own life to look further into the manger where the One bringing that peace was born. He stopped short of Jesus.

The shepherds who received good news of great joy that night on a quiet hillside didn’t stop short of Jesus. They heard every word the angels proclaimed that joyful night and rushed to the manger to find the King born in a lowly stable. The Wise Men who journeyed from a distant land didn’t stop short of Jesus. An arduous journey and a deceptive king did not keep them from finding and worshipping the King and Savior.

Unfortunately, like Longfellow, many today stop short of Jesus each Christmas season. The commercialization of Christmas distracts too many from the true Gift born over 2000 years ago and laid into a humble manger. The woeful need for “peace on earth” when so much unrest exists discourages many others from looking for the One God promised to bring it. Still others, just like Longfellow, crave the promise of peace but refuse to see that Peace has a name–Jesus!

Please don’t stop short of Jesus this Christmas. Don’t miss the greatest Gift. Don’t settle for hollow hope. Don’t be satisfied with mere pieces of peace. Don’t hold to only morsels of the message. Listen to all of it.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Luke 2:10-17

Peace has a name. Jesus. Don’t stop short of Him!

Lottie Moon: Pray, Give, Go!

On Christmas Eve, 1912, Lottie Moon passed from this world into her heavenly reward. As a missionary to China, she relentlessly and selflessly gave herself to God’s call on her life. Indeed, she died in part because she gave her rations to the starving children she felt so indebted to reach. Decades of loving the Chinese, teaching the gospel, and giving of herself for the people she loved culminated in the ultimate expression of sacrifice.

More than a century later, her life and influence still echo in the hearts of men and women responding to God’s call to overseas missions. Each Christmas, Southern Baptists turn their attention to her story for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. And while many Southern Baptists know of Lottie Moon, few may know the names of Martha Crawford, Edmonia Moon, and R.B. Headden. Yet, God used each one to help sound the call to China for Lottie.

    Martha Crawford had been working in China with a school that Lottie began to financially support shortly after she became a Christian.
    Lottie’s younger sister, Edmonia, had already gone to China as a missionary and corresponded with her pleadingly to come to China with her.
    Her pastor R.B. Headden preached a sermon one Sunday from John 4:35 on the fields ready to harvest. She would commit to go to China shortly afterward attributing this sermon as instrumental in God’s call upon her.
  • God use the influence of all three of these relationships to call Lottie Moon to a lifetime of service for him overseas.
  • I’m grateful that the annual Lottie Moon Christmas offering gives churches all across the Southern Baptist Convention the opportunity to again turn our gaze to missionary heroes like her and to give generously to support International Mission Board work all over the world. But it’s not just Lottie that we should reflect upon this time of year. We should also consider the important influence that R.B. Headden, Edmonia Moon, and Martha Crawford had upon her as well. Each one, in their unique way, has an eternal investment in the lingering influence of Lottie Moon more than 100 years later. They beckon us to see that it’s not only the missionaries who are important to God’s kingdom work, but the supporters and senders. They remind me that all can pray, most can give, and some can go.

    For my church family at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church, we will receive our Lottie Moon Christmas offering on Sunday, December 9. I’m praying for a generous offering that Sunday. But I’m also praying that God would raise up another generation of senders, supporters, and goers. The kingdom work beckons, “Pray! Give! Go!” Will you?

    *If you or your church would like to give directly to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, you may do so here.