What a strange Christmas season this is for us all, unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. I don’t suppose I really need to point that out to anyone, but I mention it just the same. I don’t know whether this Christmas this year has been busier for you than normal or not nearly as busy as usual.
For me, it has proved to be busier earlier and now, on Christmas eve as I write this, I have nothing else I really have to do. I’d normally be working on my Christmas eve sermon right now, but I had to have that done a few days ago because of the way my congregation is producing our Christmas eve service in this year of Covid.
Maybe it’s the same for you. No last-minute Christmas gift shopping. Since most of us are not gathering with family or friends on Christmas day, those gifts had to be bought earlier than usual so that they could be mailed to their recipients. For me there will be not big family gathering this year, so there is no need for lots of cooking and food prep today.
Well, whatever your situation, pandemic or no pandemic, Christmas is typically full of tasks, to-dos, errands, projects, deadlines. That holiday busyness is usually one of the things I hear people complain most about, as if we have no control over our how busy we get at Christmas time. You and I don’t have to say “yes” to everything the people in our lives want us to do. We have a choice.
So, as I said, whatever your situation is, whether as busy as usual or not busy at all, I want to remind you that a lot of the things we busy ourselves about at Christmas time, have very little to do with the heart of what Christmas is really about. Shopping and gift giving, cooking and eating, decorating, and Christmas newsletter writing—all of that can easily crowd out the really important Christmas work that we are meant to be doing.
And to help you understand that important Christmas work, I want to take you to Luke’s gospel where we find a particularly good model to show us that most important Christmas project that all Christ-followers should have on their to-do list.
One of the things that you’ll notice immediately as you read through the first chapter of Luke’s gospel is that Luke interweaves the story of the birth of John the Baptist with the story of the birth of Jesus. Luke seems to see John’s birth and John’s mission as being very important for Christians to keep in mind when they think about Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ mission. I want to suggest that Luke hightlights John and his mission because, at least in part, John is meant to be a model for Christians to follow.
When the angel Gabriel comes to John’s father, Zechariah, to announce the coming birth of John, this is what Gabriel says will be John’s mission: He will “prepare for the Lord a people made ready”. Lk. 1:17 [LEB] He is to prepare people to receive Jesus.
Later, Zechariah himself declares that mission on his baby son, John:
And so you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the merciful compassion of our God by which the dawn will visit to help us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:76-79
Do you hear that? Here’s the bullet points:
- to give knowledge of salvation to the people
- to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death
- to direct our feet into the way of peace
John has a powerful calling, powerful mission. And as I said a moment ago, John the Baptist is a model for us. John’s mission is also our mission. Each of us, like John the Baptist, is given the calling to prepare people for the coming of the Lord. You may be thinking, “No, Gary, that’s your job. That’s only a job for pastors.” But you’re wrong. It is my job but not because I’m a pastor. It’s my job because I’m a Christians; I’m a disciple of Jesus. This is a calling and a mission for all of Christ’s people.
Each of us has this calling and this mission: to go to all the people around us—our family, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, everyone we meet. It is our calling to help people know who this Jesus is, the One whose birth we celebrate in this season.
It’s our mission to give others the knowledge of salvation. It’s our mission to give them light in their darkness. And you know very well that these are dark times. You and I, if we know Jesus, have light to share to others in these dark times. Don’t fail them. They need the light that you have.
It is for us most especially to guide the feet of our neighbors and our society into the path of peace. In these troubled and angry and hostile times, our world needs to know the way to peace. I don’t know if Christian people are doing this one very well these days. We sometimes seem to be just as angry and hostile as everyone else. We need to stop that. We need to learn the way of peace. And we need to lead others the way to peace.
It is for us especially to bring light to those living in the shadow of death. We have light to drive back the shadow of death. Don’t fail them. You know people who are struggling in these dark times. Don’t hold back the light that you have in Jesus.
In this Christmas season, if we’re going to be busy, let’s be busy doing this. I’m going to try. Want to join me?
(c) 2020 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.