The General’s Christmas Message
Words and songs greet the savior
by SHAW CLIFTON, GENERAL –
The opening chapters of the Gospel of Luke hold the divinely inspired record of words and songs that preceded and greeted the glorious birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today these words and songs still lift our hearts, as we celebrate Christmas again. It is a time for speaking the good news of Jesus, and a time for singing in praise of his birth. Let Salvationists declare that the Savior is born! Let the Army rejoice with songs of praise and gladness!
The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary with a message from God: “You…are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Then words of reassurance: “Do not be afraid.” Still God speaks today to affirm and encourage us. Mary was called to a sacred task, a highly privileged task, as the mother of the Savior. Although questioning, she gave her assent: “May it be to me as you have said.” Her words of obedient surrender are an example to us all.
Next Elizabeth offered words of blessing to Mary and the child she carried: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Mary’s instinctive response was to burst into song: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” What a marvelous picture we have of these two godly women encouraging each other and lifting their hearts and voices to Almighty God.
Elizabeth’s child, John, was born first, destined to be the forerunner of the Christ. John’s father, Zechariah, had been unable to speak (Luke 1:22) but suddenly he was released from silence to voice words of praise and gratitude to God: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” Zechariah recognized that John would be “a prophet of the Most High” who would “go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.” Here is a father releasing his child into an unknown future for the sake of the plan of God.
Angelic words accompanied the good news of the birth of Jesus. The angel told the shepherds by night: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today…a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This same message is the one we are called to declare today. It is simple, yet profound. It happened long ago, but is for all eternity. We join our voices with the song of the angels to proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
I urge the Salvationists of the world to speak on, to sing on. Let our telling of the Christmas message be clear, using words that echo the words of old, bringing blessings as of old. Let our songs be as glad and spontaneous as the songs of old that accompanied the news of his coming, songs that give glory to God.
Lift up your hearts, lift up your voices, lift up the Savior of the world!