Christmas is about the greatest act of love in the history of the world. We know who God is not only by what He said, but by what He did – taking on human flesh, assuming the role of a humble servant, and dying a horrific death in our place on the cross.
Israel had God’s Word before Jesus came – the Old Testament. Yet somehow religious leaders in Jesus’ day missed the message God was trying to convey in His Word. They made it about a set of rules to obey and not a gift of grace to be accepted. They traded what mattered most for what God most abhorred – forgiveness for condemnation and humility for arrogance. Christmas is about that message of grace and forgiveness – the one that changed everything. That’s the real “reason for the season”. What better opportunity is there than Christmas to share that message of redemption and reconciliation so others can experience God’s grace and forgiveness?
Because God’s own people had missed who He really was, God appeared before them in the flesh. Yet once again, the Word of God, this time spoken directly by His Son, couldn’t convince most that He was who He said He was…
“Are you really the one we are waiting for, or shall we keep on looking?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him about the miracles you’ve seen me do— the blind people I’ve healed, and the lame people now walking without help, and the cured lepers, and the deaf who hear, and the dead raised to life; and tell him about my preaching the Good News to the poor.” (Matthew 11:3-5)
Most didn’t believe in Jesus because of His words. They believed because of the supernatural acts of compassion that He did.
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own but are from my Father who lives in me. And he does his work through me. Just believe it—that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or else believe it because of the mighty miracles you have seen me do.” (John 14:10-11)
It was also Jesus’ acts (of defiance and of miraculous kindness) that made the religious leadership want to kill him. In the end, they cited something He said (His claim to be One with the Father) to condemn Him to death, but it was most certainly what He did that put Him on trial and incited the final verdict. They understood that His acts, not just His words, were going to win over the world and destroy their religious establishment…
“’What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘For this man certainly does miracles. If we let him alone the whole nation will follow him—and then the Roman army will come and kill us and take over the Jewish government.’ And one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, said, ‘You stupid idiots – let this one man die for the people – why should the whole nation perish?’” (John 11:47-50)
How can you convince people Jesus is the One they’re looking for?…
By doing exactly as Jesus did – leading with acts of kindness. Besides simply being the right thing to do, compassion has tremendous missional and evangelistic power. To be clear, we’re not recommending “good” OVER “Gospel”, but “good” THEN “Gospel”. Jesus typically healed and fed before telling people who He is, and He instructed His disciples to do the same.
Yet churches are no longer on the front lines of compassion as they were for the better part of 1900 years. Therefore, what society sees in most churches and Christians today isn’t faith that attracts but religion that repels. Faith reaches out to those in need of help and hope whereas religion speaks up to defend what we believe. Society also doesn’t see joy in most Christians. Instead, they see the pursuit of happiness in our efforts to change society to conform to our picture of how things ought to be. In other words, the pursuit of happiness battles or consumes for personal gain, whereas joy overflows as we pour into the lives of those around us.
In those respects, Christians today likely look to non-believers more like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day than like Jesus Himself. Humble servants reveal and reflect Jesus because that’s precisely what He was. However, Christians who criticize culture without first demonstrating love and compassion appear self-righteous, blocking the view of Jesus by concealing their need for forgiveness.
Since non-believers don’t see our Savior in most Christians (i.e. faith and joy) they can more easily dismiss the “reason for the (Christmas) season”. Instead, they have come to view Christmas as being about the alternatives to faith and joy – religion (e.g. attending a Christmas Eve service) and happiness (e.g. Santa Claus and consumerism).
Meet The Need’s #GiveAnEternalGift challenge to Christians ends on Christmas Day. #GiveAnEternalGift is about refocusing our attention this Christmas on what increases our faith and joy – serving and sharing Jesus with others. It encourages Christians not to get caught up in the holiday stressors that come with pursuing happiness (e.g. obligations and expectations) and fighting religious battles over words like “Happy Holidays” or “Xmas”.
But do we see that message as a big deal?
The question is…how anxious are we to convince people Jesus is the One they’re looking for? Are we as excited to share the Gospel as when we first believed? Have we lost our first love? Once we became Christians, we started hanging out in church more and cussing less. We began feeling better about ourselves and forgetting how desperate we once were for forgiveness. Therefore, we became a little less thankful for God’s grace. Likewise, our sense of urgency to see others saved from the brink of Hell dissipated as well. We became a little less inclined to leave the comfort of the “Christian ghetto” to serve and share the message of Jesus with those outside the fold. Those “outsiders”, the “customers” churches should be pursuing, recognize that they’re being ignored, receiving poor “customer service”. Therefore, when they hear Christians speaking out on social issues, it sounds like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, more like the proud Pharisees than the humble sinner.
If we truly believe eternal suffering awaits our loved ones who don’t know Jesus, how can we not step out of our comfort zones to share Jesus with them this Christmas? How can most Christians spend nearly all of their time with those who are already on the boat, when there are so many drowning in despair without Jesus in the ocean around us, waiting to be rescued? Why do so many Christians only talk about Jesus with other Christians, maybe willing to invite a few non-believers to church but hesitant to BE the church themselves, as God intended.
It’s your turn…
Where Would Jesus Be (WWJB) on His birthday? Chances are He wouldn’t be giving another quickly-discarded Christmas gift to kids who already have it all, or opening presents Himself by a Christmas tree next to a warm fire. Wouldn’t Jesus be out in the highways and byways serving and sharing His life-changing message with the brokenhearted and downtrodden – those feeling most alone this Christmas without loved ones to hug and presents to open?
Let’s point non-believers to Jesus this Christmas. Show them that Christmas is about something much bigger than religion or happiness. Put “Christ back in Christmas” by following Jesus’ example of combining compassion with evangelism – demonstrating His love before telling them who He is. Rather than being like Santa and giving gifts that are soon forgotten or broken, be like our Savior and #GiveAnEternalGift this week by:
- Performing an act of kindness for a coworker, neighbor or complete stranger and watch it open the door to sharing the Gospel.
- Posting a photo and tell your story on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #GiveAnEternalGift to inspire others.
- Challenging 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.