Rejoice - God is with us!
He will “provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the deadly global health crisis caused by COVID 19, and the unexpected Artsakh war with heartbreaking losses, we lift up our eyes to the Lord from where our help comes. Let us in unison, as one body in Christ, celebrate Christmas and rejoice, God is with us!
He loves us, cares for us, and reveals his mercy and grace upon us. We might walk through the valley of the shadow of pandemic and war, like King Ahaz in the book of Isaiah, surrounded by enemies. The hearts of the king and the people trembled with fear (Isaiah 7:2), yet the Lord gave the King a sign of his unshakable presence. Isaiah prophesied "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” [which means ‘God with us’] (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. Immanuel, God is with us, is a declaration of His presence, of his word fulfilled. It is a declaration for us today as it was for King Ahaz then, and the Christians before us.
We are prone to worry, tempted to fear and yet Jesus is Immanuel. He is our hope in the middle of hopelessness and adversity. He is our comfort, our rock, and our shield. God is with us as our refuge and fortress. He delivers us from the snare of the trapper, Artsakh's enemy. He delivers us from deadly pestilence, or pandemic as we read in Psalm 91:3.
Rejoice, Immanuel, God is with us – with grief stricken and devastated people. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). He himself was wounded and through his wounds we are healed.
Rejoice, Immanuel, God is with us – He will bestow beauty in place of ashes. The word beauty that Isaiah uses means a diadem or jeweled crown. Dignity is symbolized by the diadem. He will turn our ashes (sadness, wounds and pain) into an ornament of beauty. His presence turns ashes to garments of salvation and righteousness and grace.
Rejoice, Immanuel, God is with us – to give us the oil of joy instead of sadness, the inner joy of the Holy Spirit. Kings and priests were anointed by oil, and its abundance is a symbol of joy and prosperity. His presence fills us with the joy of the Holy Spirit. "You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." (1 Thess 1:6) The joy of faith and the rejoicing of hope: this oil is Christ's gift to us.
Rejoice, Immanuel, God is with us – to give us the garment of praise instead of mourners’ sackcloth - the spirit of despair or heaviness. By His grace we put on the garment of praise, the gladness and thanksgiving God's people feel when they are filled with the joy of Immanuel: His presence in the valley of pandemic and death. Situations might change, but His presence is with us. We feel it when we by faith enter into his sanctuary. "Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor.” (Isaiah 52:1a)
God has a purpose for the AEUNA and the body of Christ in difficult times like these. Armenians are heavy hearted. Yet:
We are called to be trees of righteousness, “a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
We are called to proclaim the good news of His presence and salvation.
We are called to embody love, mercy, compassion and caring spirit to those who are hurting and suffering because of their losses.
We are called to extend our loving hand indiscriminately, to wipe away bitter tears and to proclaim that God is with us!
Let us celebrate Christmas together. Let us rejoice in the online outreach we have been able to expand during this time. People are searching and finding us, finding our various Bible studies and gatherings online. Rejoice, Immanuel, God is with us!
Have a blessed Christmas and keep these in your prayers and support them as you are able:
Armenia and Artsakh
AMAA ministries in Armenia and Artsakh and around the world
AEUNA churches’ online outreach: pastors, Bible studies, worship services, fellowship groups
Camp AREV and its Director Rev. Razmig Minassian - reaching out to the new generation of Armenians in California
AEUNA Eastern Region Youth Ministries led by Sylvia Jizmejian
Armenian Evangelical Women’s Fellowship – Eastern and Western Regions
C&E. Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School – and new school board chair Tzoler Oukayan
Publications ministry of the AEUNA
AEUNA TV ministries reaching thousands of people
AEUNA Moderator, Board of Directors, and staff
The AEUNA Rebuilding Project
- Rev. Berdj Djambazian
Minister to the Union