Many Christians are wary of Christmas. Some simply ignore it completely. They want nothing to do with Christmas trees, decorations, cards or pudding. They hate the commercialism of Christmas, the way in which the birth of the Lord Jesus is turned into an excuse for gluttony, drunkenness, extravagance and blasphemy. I understand where they’re coming from, and share their feelings to a great extent.
Yet I do keep Christmas (I explained my reasons in “Letter from the Manse” December 2001). And indeed as a church we have always tried to take advantage of the special evangelistic opportunities that Christmas offers.
We’ll be doing that again this year. We have our carol services on the Sunday before Christmas. The preaching at both those services will be aimed straight at unconverted visitors. And on that Sunday, we’re hosting a tea down at the St John Ambulance HQ for international students. We want them to come for tea and then stay on for the evening carol service. Then there’s the Christmas Day service – again, we want there to be a challenge there for unconverted friends. We’re holding carol services in four different nursing-homes – Reinbek, Peel Moat, Hollymeade and (the first opportunity we’ve had there) in Marbury House, the home where Avis now lives.
Please do everything you can to support these activities. Come to the Sunday carol services and the Christmas morning service. Bring friends, neighbours, colleagues from work. Start thinking now about who you can invite. Give them plenty of notice and arrange transport if they need it. Make yourself available to help at the student tea. If you can’t be there yourself, at least help with the preparations and baking. Try to be at one or all of the nursing home services.
Then there’s our door to door leaflet (A Christmas Crossword). There’s no great skill involved in pushing a leaflet through a letterbox. That’s one way almost every member of the church can be involved in preaching the gospel. It only takes a couple of hours to post three or four hundred leaflets. But if you can’t spare those two hours, at least do the street you live in.
There are tens of thousands of unsaved people for whom we are the nearest church that preaches the gospel. They’re living in ignorance. They are lost, without God, without hope. Unless someone tells them the gospel, they will die unsaved and be in hell forever. If we don’t tell them the way to be saved, no-one will. We must do everything we can, together, to reach them. Pray for our Christmas activities. And do everything you can to use the opportunities God has given us as a church.
But, more than that, ask what opportunities God has given to yourself personally and to your family. Here are some suggestions.
1) Open your home on Christmas Day to some lonely person who’d otherwise be on their own. There’s that old lady living down the street, whom no-one ever visits. She seems to have no family. Ask her to spend Christmas Day with you. Bring her to the morning service and then let her share your family’s Christmas. We’ve got to know a number of elderly folk in the different nursing-homes who have no-one. Yes, there’ll be Christmas dinner served in the home – but what they miss is being with a family. Why shouldn’t it be your family? Duncan’s suggested that we invite overseas students to join us in our homes on Christmas Day. Some of them are thousands of miles from home, stuck in almost deserted halls of residence over Christmas. Offer them a traditional British family Christmas – and the gospel.
2) Make sure every card you send to unbelieving friends has some gospel purpose behind it. Write a ‘round robin’ newsletter about you and your family. Weave into it your gratitude to God for his mercies, your dependence on him for the future, some account of what God has been teaching you through his Word. Then enclose a copy with each card. Or at the very least, enclose a copy of A Christmas Crossword or some other evangelistic leaflet. Go further. Choose a few people off your Christmas card list. Enclose in their card a CD with one of last year’s Christmas sermons on. Make sure you put in your orders for CDs in good time!
3) Give away lots of small gifts to all sorts of people – gifts that in some way will remind them of the reality of God, and the message of the Bible. Maybe a calendar with a Bible verse or a short message for each day of the year. There are a number of very attractive designs available at very reasonable prices. Folk who have no interest in spiritual things will put up a calendar rather than put it in the bin. Give away books. There are books available for every sort of reader. It might be a book of daily Bible readings, or a Christian biography, or simply a book explaining the gospel directly. For those bewildered by life, try Sinclair Ferguson’s The Pundit’s Folly. For so-called intellectuals, John Blanchard’s Evolution: Fact or Fiction costs only £9.95 for a pack of ten. For nature-lovers, why not John Stott’s, The Birds our Teachers – an attractive coffee-table book full of superb photos (did you know JRWS is an expert bird-photographer?) Ask me for suggestions if you’re looking for the right book for someone in particular. Or for those who won’t read anything, why not a video? Perhaps a true story like The Hiding Place – an account of Corrie ten Boom’s concentration camp experiences, or something more educational like Moody Productions’ Our Solar System.
4) Make up a gift-box for people who have nothing. A bar of chocolate, half a dozen mince pies, a warm pair of gloves, a gospel booklet. Wrap the box in gift wrapping, take it with you when you go to down to the precinct to do your last-minute Christmas shopping – and hand it to one of the wretched lads or girls who sit there with their “homeless and hungry” placards, or sell ‘The Big Issue’. And then when you’re next in Stockport, look out for them again and say hello. They may remember you, they may not. They may want to chat, they may not. Who knows? That bedraggled, unkempt character may be one of God’s elect, chosen to share Christ’s beauty and glory forever. And your gesture of kindness may be the first step in winning them for Christ.
I’m sure you can think of lots more ideas. Paul’s goal was that by all means I might save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22). That should be our mindset all the year round. But couldn’t we at least make a start at Christmas? Jesus, the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10.) What better way to celebrate his coming than to follow his example?