By Roland Clarke
With Christmas season almost here, I trust you are considering how to make the most of the opportunity, not only in terms of showing kindness and building relationships with unbelievers but also sharing the Good News. Below is a list of five practical suggestions. Corresponding to each one is a half-page explanation with a link pointing to a more detailed discussion.
1) Be hospitable to refugees at Christmas
2) Mary’s Boy Child: a popular Christmas carol
3) How Jesus got his name and what it means
4) Star that signalled the Messiah’s birth
5) God’s inexpressible gift
1) Be hospitable to refugees at Christmas
The Bible plainly tells us to show hospitality to strangers/foreigners. “Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33) We also read in Deuteronomy 10:18-19 how the Lord “ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners …” Hospitality is not just a general principle, we are specifically told in Deuteronomy 26:9-12 to include foreigners/refugees on festive occasions like thanksgiving and Christmas when we celebrate God’s goodness.
Jesus reinforced this 1500 years later when he instructed us not to invite just our “friends and relatives” but to invite the marginalised. Concerning such people, he spoke not of a “luncheon” but of a “banquet” which implies a more lavish display of generosity. (Luke 14:12-14)
I know several churches who did this. Two of them were amazed to see 300-400 people attend and most of these were Muslim immigrants or refugees! Indeed, these events were so successful they sparked a series of other “hospitality” events over the next few years.
Why not consider doing something similar in your church? What about serving a special meal to refugees who may be studying English at an ESL centre near you? You will need to arrange for some volunteers to help, not just in terms of supplying and serving food, but also engaging newcomers in simple conversation. Doing this doesn’t require that one be a rocket scientist, you simply need to be a good listener, a friend.
As I conclude, don’t forget that you can also show hospitality on a personal level in your home. If you want to read a four page article which touches on some practical aspects of hospitality, email me and I’ll send it to you.
2) Mary’s Boy Child: one of my favourite Christmas carols
Mary’s Boy Child, popularized by Bony M, says, “Man shall live forever more because of Christmas Day.” This beautiful idea resonates with the deepest yearning of the human heart. But what does it really mean? How did Christ make it possible for mortals to live for ever?
The first clue to help us answer this question is found in a proverb penned by Solomon 3,000 years ago, “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God has planted the longing for eternity in our hearts. It is clear that God wants us to find this priceless treasure but we must truly seek him, “God will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory, honor and immortality that God offers.”(Romans 2:7)
Another clue is found in a prophecy foretelling that the Messiah “will bring God’s salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:9) Scripture clarifies what salvation means in Isaiah 25:7-9 where it foretells that God will one day destroy death and wipe away tears. Notice how the people who see this amazing feat exclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him and he saved us! This is the Lord in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
Isaiah speaks fittingly of salvation as a way of explaining the destruction of death. We read a similar prophecy in Revelation 21:4 where the apostle John envisioned the new heavens and the new earth. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone for ever.”
It is interesting that Jesus clashed with death and overpowered it. He predicted he would be killed and raised to life after three days, as the prophets foretold. In this way he destroyed death. He holds “the keys of death and the grave” and gives eternal life to anyone who truly believes in him. (Revelation 1:18)
When Jesus was born the angel of God instructed that he be named Yeshua, (Jesus, Isa) which literally means “The Lord is salvation.” It makes perfect sense that he should be given this name reflecting the Messianic mission – to bring God’s salvation. You may also like to read, A heart for eternity which is available online here.
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