This morning in church we sang “The First Noel” because it’s the Christmas season. The chorus repeats, “Noel, noel, noel, noel; born is the king of Israel.” According to references on the world-wide web, “Noel” means “Christmas.” Thus, we sang “The First Christmas.” God with us.
Yet there are many churches that bear the connotation of Christian that will sing “No El” this Christmas. The same carol. Different meaning. “El” in the Hebrew is a shortening of the word “Elohim” meaning “God.” Translated, “No El” means “No God.” Same carol. Two words, not one. Different meaning entirely.
Revelation 3 bears the interaction Jesus had with the church at Laodicea. He said it was neither burning hot nor freezing cold. Not hot, not cold. Lukewarm.
When you’re drastically thirsty in summer’s heat, do you enjoy a drink of water that is room temperature? Lukewarm? Not at all thirst-quenching! You want to spit it out. That’s what Jesus said about the Laodicean church. Lukewarm. It made Him want to vomit.
Why? Because it was a church not fervent in its love for Him. It had rejected Him. We know that because Jesus was standing outside a closed door at Laodicea knocking to come in. He was waiting for someone to open the door. Instead, the Laodiceans were satisfied with themselves just as they were—room temperature. No shortcomings, no needs, no desires for better. They didn’t need God to change the atmosphere. And Jesus said, “I will vomit you out of my mouth”.
Many churches today fit the description of Laodicea. They observe traditions handed down over generations. Religious traditions make them feel good. Christmas is only one of them.
Check out the songs they sing. Week after week. Lots of truth in the words, but members sing them by rote. The vital realities penned by writers of former decades or even centuries are only words fitted to a familiar melody.
The order of service is never invaded by a supernatural visitation from the Holy Spirit. Predictable continuity reigns. Peoples’ ears are tickled by the sermon, but repentance never grips them. They’re satisfied with the status quo. Lukewarm. Vomit material.
Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, deals with the same heart-set in Israel of the day. The Hebrews were going through the motions of worship, but their hearts were not in it. They embraced God with their words, but not with their hearts.
Malachi challenged them in God’s stead to engage with God in dialogue or testing of what He had promised them. The very last word of the book, the end of the Old Testament, is “curse.” How telling is that?
Timothy of the New Testament warns that in the Last Days before the coming of Christ to earth again the love of many will grow cold. In other words, professed believers will not embrace God for all He is and will settle for religion, not a living relationship with Him. He puts it this way: “…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” They sound like, they act like they are true believers of the Gospel, but their hearts are not in it.
If you find yourself in a church that perpetuates that lifelessness, find one that embraces God fully. In the meantime, ask God to come to you in reality and reveal Himself to you. Confess your emptiness and love of pleasure to Him; He knows it already, but wants to hear it from your own lips. That’s called confession. Then submit to Him and His will for your life. Read His words to you in the Bible. Think about what you read. Obey it. You will see your own life transformed as only God can do.
Then, at Christmas and always, you can sing, “The First Noel” and mean it: Christmas. No curse. God has come! God is with you!
Just open the door.
— Posted by Tom Salmon for Doris, a fellow member of the Prince William and Manassas Family Alliance