Perhaps more than any other holiday, Christmas gives us an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those we know. The mass marketing of Christmas items, the holiday meals and gatherings in our homes and workplaces, the opportunity to give gifts and cards, these and many other things present openings to invite people to consider Jesus.
Think about it, how often will someone ask you in the next several weeks, “what are you doing for the holidays this year?” What will you tell them? What is the first thing which comes to mind? If you are like me, most of the time you will simply give a polite answer about what your family plans are for the season. You know that is what the person who asked is expecting; they surely didn’t ask because they were expecting us to say anything significant. This is perhaps especially true when we are engaging with unbelievers. We know they have no interest in Christ, and we don’t want to embarrass them or ourselves, so we just let the opportunity pass.
But what if we simply replied to their casual question in this way, “I am going to church to celebrate Christmas. Would you like to come with me?” This past July, Tenth’s Session and Diaconate were presented with the results of a study done by The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics. It points out a dramatic religious shift in the United States which they have labelled “dechurching.” As many as 40 million Americans who used to attend church have stopped doing so, mostly in the last 25 years. However, their study did point out an opportunity. When survey respondents were asked what it would take to get them back to church, the majority replied, “an invitation.”
I point this out because so often we forget that the most basic way we can begin the evangelization process is simply to invite someone to come to church. Sometimes we use the expression, “I was brought to faith in Christ.” How can we help “bring” someone to Christ? Where do we meet with Christ? While it is true that Christ indwells every believer by his Spirit, it is also true that God is especially present with his people when they gather for worship. How do the people of God become the people of God? By gathering in his name in corporate worship. It is in worship where we experience the fulfillment of God’s promise to be present and commune with his people. It is in worship where we receive the grace of God through the reading and preaching of his Word and the sacraments. This is not to say that God’s grace only operates within the confines of corporate worship, but it is the primary context where his church is built. The book of Acts describes the worship of the early church in this way: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
We all realize there are people who will attend church at Christmas time if not at other times of year. Why not invite that person to come to Tenth?
Each year Tenth highlights a theme at Christmas time. The purpose of this is so that year by year we might come to a greater understanding of our great Savior. This year’s theme is “redemption’s happy dawn,” words from the carol See, Amid the Winter’s Snow. Redemption reminds us that Christ came to pay a debt he didn’t owe, because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. This is “happy” news. The joy of the salvation Christ brought has fueled the praises of angels and the redeemed since the time of his birth, and will continue throughout eternity in the new heavens and the new earth. At Christmas time we also celebrate the dawn of redemption. Christ came to usher in the kingdom of heaven, to establish the new and better covenant, and to inaugurate the new creation. As the prophet Isaiah wrote long ago:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
Though we still have darkness in this life, the life to come will be in a place where “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). May these truths give us cause to praise our Great Savior ever more fervently this Christmas season.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, ris’n with healing in his wings,
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King.”