When these lines appear in print “the season of giving” will for weeks have been a thing of the past. However, they are written a few days before Christmas and were suggested by the hustle and bustle to be seen in stores of every type across the land. Stores and means of transportation are crowded. Money flows freely and often lavishly for gifts for all the family and a host of friends. Each year the list becomes bigger, and one begins to wonder how it all can continue.
It makes good business. But does it really have anything to do with Christmas, and is it actually the spirit of Christmas? Although the wise men came a year or two after Christmas and to the house rather than to the stable with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, you do not read of the shepherds doing so and of being instructed by the angels to do so. The angel simply told them to go and see the Gift which God had sent forth into our flesh. They then went home glorifying God. Their gift was one of praise and adoration, of thanksgiving and glorification. But did they exchange gifts and bestow gifts upon men? Then, too, does it now a month after Christmas seem rather out of place even to talk about Christmas and the giving of gifts? But Christmas is not such a transient thing, and the joy of Christmas is not so temporary that it is gone in four weeks. The true Christmas spirit will continue till the next celebration of Christmas. It will be as welcome and refreshing in July as it is in December. The desire to help, to serve, to give gifts will be as strong during the hot summer days as on the crisp winter night that marks our Christmas day in this region.
Although we do not like the name of Christmas, we like to point out that Christ is in that name! The influence of the Roman Catholic Church upon the Protestant church world is to be seen in that name. Although we are vehemently opposed to the idolatrous mass of the Roman Catholic Church as a worship of a creature—bread and wine—instead of the Creator, we still speak of the mass of Christ’s birth and contract it into Christmas. It is not always easy to coin a name for an object or an event, but Christmas could and should certainly be replaced with a word or phrase that retains the Christ and links it up with His birth, perhaps, Christ’s Birthday, even as we speak of New Year’s Day. The point we wish to make, however, is that the spirit of Christmas, and the giving at that time must and does have Christ in it.
Walking through a congested aisle of a department store, seeing the hustling, somewhat enthusiastic groups of buyers, the thought struck us which in one word we placed at the head of these columns. How much of this exchanging of gifts, if indeed any of it, will be characterized by the Christ Himself in those memorable words which He spoke? “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And is there indeed such giving today? Are we to suppose that He looks down from His throne on high and smiles upon all this commercialization and all this giving of gifts and says to each and all that they have done this unto Him? Jesus was not speaking of giving our children and friends luxuries and gifts without which they could easily live. He was speaking of the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick, the prisoner. He was not speaking of exchanging gifts but of bestowing them upon those who could not return them. The hungry and thirsty could not feed you and give you drink. Were they in such a position they would not be thirsty and hungry themselves. The naked could not dress you in silks and satins, for they had nothing to cover their own naked bodies. The sick and the prisoner could not return your visit and exchange a visit with you. They were confined to their beds and to their cells. And a giving of gifts that stops on December 26 is not one of which Jesus says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these least of these, ye did it unto me.”
The poor we always have with us, Jesus also said. The sick, we will all admit, are here in countless numbers, and prisons have not yet become outmoded although they have been glorified. In our own land and in far off lands there are the naked, the hungry and the thirsty. Here at home there are contributing factors for the situation that the deacons of the churches find none upon whom to reveal the mercy of Christ. Insurance policies and social security are ahead(?) of the Church, and to a great extent have replaced the office of the deacon in the Church. And men are as a rule too proud to go to the deacons but prefer to receive from the world.
Widows in need there still are. Aged couples in institutions of mercy and convalescent homes are not a rare but a common thing today. Men out of work or working on a greatly curtailed schedule can be found. And, if in our own churches we are looking for a place to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the “sick” and “prisoner,” our Covenant God has given us the brethren and sisters in Jamaica to help. We have had the privilege the last few months to speak in behalf of these brethren and sisters and their need in almost all of our churches in Classis West from Lynden, Washington through the Dakotas, Colorado, Midwest and Illinois, showing in full color the labors performed last Spring by Mr. Harry Zwak and the undersigned; we pleaded for material help to thesewhom our God has brought across our path, whose need HE has shown to us and of whom HE says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.” Dare we turn away and look the other way? Dare we close the door and say? “But, Lord, this is not dramatic enough. Please give us another field.” Congregations of ours have sent in the past and recent past to their relief. Congregations are preparing more bundles to be sent in the near future. Let them consider the “Inasmuch” of Jesus and be sure of their reward in the day of days.
Let us also remember the “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” We have and we will receive the heartfelt and sincere thanks of the brethren and sisters in Jamaica. They will not return food and drink to us and give us clothing in return. They are confined to their island and thus as the sick and imprisoned cannot return the visit, they will not be able to come to our shores and make fancy speeches and make dramatic displays of gratitude. They are a humble, sincere people who love the Lord and live in childlike trust and dependence upon Him. They praise Him every day. They displayed a refreshing spirituality in our presence. And we have no reason to believe that it is not there every day and in all their lives. The children displayed a seriousness and spirituality that it would be a delight to see also in our own covenant seed.
But there is another side and a deeper side. After all, naked we came into this world and with an empty stomach, and naked we shall leave with empty stomachs. And whether we go through this life with a full stomach or one that knows good nourishing food only now and then is not too important. Whether we have sickness and disease and are left alone in our grief and sorrow or whether we are surrounded by sympathizers and comforters in our woes is not our deepest concern. Inasmuch as we have alleviated these natural afflictions, we have served our God and King. How much more true it is when we share our spiritual bread with those who are spiritually hungry and our spiritual drink with those who are athirst spiritually! How much richer is the thought that we have done it unto Christ Himself inasmuch as we have brought in the preaching the clothing of the righteousness of Christ to the naked, visited with the Word of God those who are spiritually sick and in the prison house of sin and death! How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace. But also how blessed are these feet. Great shall your reward be in the kingdom to come. Let us never put the material above the spiritual.
Let us share with others the heritage of truth which is ours. And whereas there are these brethren and sisters with the same tongue and language as ours (and it is so easy to converse with them) and .they pray and plead and cry as hungry and thirsty souls for the truth in the richness which our Covenant God has been pleased to give it to us, let us bend every effort. Let us leave no stone unturned. Let us with all the facilities and powers at our disposal share with others—in Jamaica but also here in our own land and wherever our heavenly Father gives us an open door—inasmuch as it is service to our Glorious King.
Our Mission Committee is at present arranging for additional sending of this spiritual bread and drink, this truth of the righteousness of Christ that clothes us and makes us whiter than snow, this truth that speaks of the healing balm for the troubled soul and takes the believer out of his prison to give him liberty and freedom to serve his God. May our people pray for fruit upon these labors. May our churches take a keen and abiding interest in it and be thankful that we have such an open door where the truth we love and cherish is received with open arms and accepted as the Word of God that it is. It was refreshing to find yet in this day and age those who listened with bated breath, having traveled many a mile on foot, are willing to be taught and who received the Word with all gladness. We could have wished for the sun to stand still and the days to be longer to be able to satisfy rather than—as was often the case of necessity-to disappoint. And still today the expressions of gratitude for the Word and the work of our churches continue to pour in. May our churches remember that inasmuch as we did this to these, we have done it unto Christ.
After reporting of the work in the Mid-West and showing the brethren and sisters in Jamaica together with their churches in full color, one of our ministers—I wish I had obtained his permission to publish his name, but not having thought of asking him at the time when we showed the pictures in his church and being at the moment unable to do so, I will not willingly offend—suggested that our Sunday Schools and Catechism Classes use their collections for the Jamaican children. A splendid idea to get our children to be mission-conscious. It was in itself interesting how eager the children were in all of our churches to see the pictures of the work in Jamaica. They have an interest in the field, and now they have also seen some of the children of this beautiful island. Let them also have a goal and an active interest in the cause of God’s Church as it is to be found in every nation, tongue and tribe. Inasmuch as they will do it to the least of these, they also will do it to Christ.
The same holds true for the many societies in our churches across our country. The labor will not be in vain. It can never be, since the Lord has been raised from the dead to His reward. And He promises us that He will come quickly with that reward. Inasmuch as we have done this to Him, we shall in God’s grace share in His reward.
And once again we ask? “Dare we ignore the other side?” Inasmuch as ye have not done it to one of the least of these, ye have not done it to me.” We have heard the cry for spiritual help. We have seen the need for material help; “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble are necessary.” I Corinthians 12:21, 22.
Never mind a reward in this life. Never mind that this will not get us praise of men (although these needy will surely express and have expressed their heartfelt thanks to us). Mind the “inasmuch.” And let us be thankful ourselves for a people that is eager to be taught and a field where it is manifestly true and confessed, “How beautiful upon the mountains (these mountains as well that rise almost up out of the sea to form wave after wave from shore to shore) are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.” There you have the Christmas spirit that never dies. Inasmuch as we have done it in His fear, He will reward us in His grace.