Dear Emmaus families and friends,
Nothing in the life of a school signals the approach of Christmas like the various end-of- year College worship, graduation and celebration evenings. I was personally blessed to attend all five of the special Emmaus evenings over the last few weeks for Early Learning to Year 12, across both our Brooklyn Park and South Plympton Campuses. All evenings were God-honouring and commemorated the participation, belonging and achievements of our students.
As I type this, there is still one special song firmly stuck in my head (on repeat!) beautifully sung by our preschool students (four-year-olds) titled “The Best Present Ever”. This song perfectly captures the meaning of the Christmas season we are entering - a selection of the lyrics is included below:
“Best Present Ever”
There's a gift that keeps on giving
It never breaks, it never stops
Better than toys or candy
This gift of love, goes on and on
God loved the world so He gave to us
The best present ever
J-E-S-U-S is born
Watch the performance here:
Words of encouragement
It was just over 12 months ago I returned from visiting the Holy Land in Israel where I was blessed to visit so many of the special biblical sites central to our faith. Sadly, the ever-present tensions and hostilities in that region have significantly escalated since my visit with any form of peaceful resolution now unclear. One of the many highlights was visiting the Wailing Wall on the western side of the old city of Jerusalem.
There were many copies of the Hebrew Bible (the same as the Christian Old Testament) available at the base of the Wailing Wall for all to read / hold / pray-over in this special place. Throughout biblical history this temple has been built and destroyed multiple times with this single western wall section being the only modern day remaining element following the last destruction by the Romans in 70CE.
As we head into the Christmas season, I want to share with you two words of encouragement from the book of Haggai which relates directly to the second rebuilding of this temple in Jerusalem; possibly in relation to this very wall section pictured above!
At this time the Israelites were exiled from Judah into captivity in Babylon (modern day Iraq) between 597-538 BCE. Upon being subsequently freed from captivity by the Persian leader ‘Cyrus the Great’ many Israelites refused the opportunity to return to their homeland and wanted to remain in Babylon - effectively as Babylonians! They had given up being God’s people and had become just like all those around them in Babylon; effectively ‘fitting in with the crowd’! They had given up their Godly calling and customs, and adopted the customs of those around them as their own. It was however only a small ‘faithful remnant’ of Israelites who returned to the Holy Land and sought to continue living as God’s chosen people (and to rebuild the temple as a ‘home’ for God).
My first encouragement to you from this scripture is to resist our modern society's attempt to dilute / rebrand the real reason for Christmas reducing it to a simple holiday or festival embellished with food and presents. I’m certainly not saying any of these things in themselves are wrong or bad, but it is important to not be caught up in the culture of our day and miss the true meaning of Christmas (I refer you back to the lyrics above). Be part of this ‘faithful remnant’ for Jesus this Christmas!
Interestingly, this faithful remnant of Israelites who returned to their homeland also have a second point of encouragement to learn from as we head into this Christmas season. Upon returning to their homeland, full of good intentions for God, they first turned their immediate attention to rebuilding their own houses, businesses, families and social life. Although there is also nothing wrong with any of these pursuits, it was some 16 years later and the temple of God still remained a pile of ruins! Although their heart was for God, they became distracted by the busyness of their every day lives and placed God ‘on-hold’!
My encouragement for you this Christmas is that it is a time of blessing for you and your family where we don’t get distracted from the true meaning of this special season.
Christmas is God’s promise to us – and Easter is the evidence!
Blessings to you and your family this Christmas.