By JUDD MATSUNAGA, Esq.

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. That’s according to the Andy Williams classic “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (1963): “There’ll be parties for hosting, Marshmallows for toasting…etc.” Hopefully, for the vast majority of us, the holiday season is about friends, family and good cheer.

However, Christmas can also be the loneliest time of the year, especially if you’ve recently lost a loved one. Some people can end up feeling even more isolated and alone because they are witness to something in which they feel they are, for whatever reason, unable to meaningfully participate. (Source: Psychology Today, “The Loneliest Time of the Year,” Dec. 26, 2018)

Christmas can be more of a hassle than a source of happiness. It is a source of stress. They feel pressure, not pleasure, when it comes to Christmas. They endure Christmas rather than enjoy it. Let’s face it, we’re all a little exhausted and worn out from all that’s happened this past year. It’s been a very strange year, e.g., wearing a mask everywhere you go, shut-downs, travel restrictions, and the like.

If that sounds like you and you’re missing that “Christmas spirit,” this article is for you. Regardless of your background, religion, problems, or circumstances, the Christmas message is for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, short or tall, black or white, etc. Christmas is universal, it’s for everyone, i.e., for all people.

In fact, our calendar (the Gregorian calendar, which is now used worldwide) is based on the birth of Jesus Christ. Do you know what AD and BC mean? You say, “Sure, I’m not an idiot. BC means ‘before Christ’ and AD means ‘after death.’” Well, not exactly. That would mean that the approximate 33 years (the life of Jesus) would be included in neither the BC nor the AD time scales. Actually, there is no year zero in this scheme; thus, the year AD 1 (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”) immediately follows the year 1 BC.

Perhaps no one has ever told you about the true purpose of Christmas. That’s a shame because there’s nothing more important for you to understand than the implications of Christmas for your life. There’s a famous hymn that says, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!” (“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Joseph M. Scriven, 1855)

The “true purpose of Christmas” can be explained by going back to the very first Christmas in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. As the angel told the shepherds, living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, “Don’t be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy for all people.” (Luke 2:10) Now, it’s easy to read this verse at a glance and miss out on the real treasures. So, let’s break it down into four smaller parts to understand it a little better.

First of all, “Don’t be afraid.” When the angel first appeared to the shepherds, the Bible says that “They were terrified.” (Luke 2:9) The angels that the Bible talks about were not gentle figures carrying harps. They were mighty figures, probably carrying swords. If you were confronted by one of these mighty warriors of God, you have no choice but to fall on your face terrified in front of them.

Especially in times of a pandemic, we live in a world where “fear” is the prime emotion. If you are healthy, you fear getting COVID, or the latest variant, Omicron. People who are working fear losing their jobs. Married couples as they get older fear losing a spouse and being alone. The purpose of Christmas is, first of all, “don’t be afraid.” But that was not all; there was a reason why they should not be afraid there is a reason why we do not need to fear today.

Secondly, it’s personal. “I bring YOU.”  It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or where you’re headed – this news is for you. The gospel is for everyone. Everyone. No one is excluded from the great grace and mercy of God in Christ. The church is becoming a multi-racial, multi-cultural people, centered around the person and work of Jesus. Jesus offers life for all people, everywhere. All you have to do is believe.

Thirdly, it’s positive: “GOOD news of great joy.” It’s really the best news you could get — “Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NET) You ask, “Saved from what?” Saved from hell. The Bible warns about hell, describing it with images of darkness, gnashing of teeth, fire, and complete separation from God. Hell is a place for the soul of extreme torment by being separated from the blessings of God.

With all the deaths during the pandemic, you should find “great joy” to know that you will be reunited with your loved ones who have gone to heaven before us. Here’s what the late Billy Graham said when asked, “Will we be reunited with our loved ones when we get to heaven? He answered, “Yes, I have every confidence that we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone to heaven before us.”

“Heaven is a place of perfect happiness — and one of its greatest joys will be our reunion with those we love. God loves us, and He will not withhold that joy from us! I think, for example, of King David in the Bible. When his infant son died, he felt his loss very deeply — and yet David was comforted by the fact that some day they would be reunited. When news came of the baby’s death, David declared, “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him.” (2 Samuel 12:23)

Graham was also asked, “Will we recognize and be reunited with our loved ones in heaven?” He answered, “There will be a vast number of people in heaven, for every person through the ages who has trusted Christ for their salvation will be there. The Bible says that because of Christ’s death for us, heaven will be filled with ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Christ).’” (Revelation 7:9)

He continued, “But you shouldn’t worry about getting lost, or never finding your loved ones in heaven – not at all. If God brought you together on this earth – out of all the billions of people who live here now – will He be able to bring you together in heaven? In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, David confidently said, ‘I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.’” David evidently expected to see the child again — not just a nameless, faceless soul without an identity, but that very child.

Furthermore, when Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John evidently recognized them. Even though it had been centuries since Moses died and Elijah was taken to heaven, they still maintained a clear identity, which implies that we will somehow be able to recognize people we’ve never even seen before. (Matthew 17:3-4)

Finally, it’s “for ALL people.” If you’re reading this, the Christmas message is for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, or have no religious background at all. God didn’t send Jesus to bring us religion! He came to make a relationship with God possible. “…our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” (Romans 5:11)

In conclusion, many people mistakenly believe that it takes hard work, tremendous sacrifice and a life of poverty to make it to heaven. This keeps them from accepting the Christmas message of eternal life. They’ll even quote the Bible, “Again I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25)

The “Eye of the Needle” has been claimed to be a gate in smaller subgate in the ancient walls of Jerusalem called the “needle gate.” The main gate to Jerusalem was closed at night. So, the only way you can get in is to take all of the baggage off the camel and you get him down on his haunches and you push the thing through. And with a lot of effort and a lot of work and a lot of strain, you can push him through the needle gate. Wrong!

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26) You can’t save yourself. I don’t care how much pushing and pulling and effort you make, you can’t save yourself. With man, it is impossible. You can’t enter into the kingdom of heaven on your own works, i.e., by being “good enough.” With man, it is impossible. But thank God, “…with God all things are possible.” (Phillipians 4:13)

The “good news of great joy” for you this Christmas is that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Over 2,000 years ago in the City of David, Jesus Christ was born to die for your sins (and my sins too). To receive your Christmas gift, i.e., eternal life, all you have to do is accept it. Merry Christmas!!!

Judd Matsunaga, Esq., is the founding partner of the Law Offices of Matsunaga & Associates, specializing in estate/Medi-Cal planning, probate, personal injury and real estate law. With offices in Torrance, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Fountain Valley, he can be reached at (800) 411-0546. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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