First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS! What a glorious season as we remember the first advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as well as long for the second advent in His return to establish His reign and rule!
Now, I want to help prepare us to engage with those around us during the holidays. In many ways, I could just reprint this POST (it is quite applicable). However, what I’d rather do is exhort you and then give a few practical thoughts.
I want to exhort each and every one of us to intentionally engage our holiday environments with the gospel! What does this engagement look like? Well, it would include a “fruit-of-the-Spirit” bearing manner about us. The holidays are quite stressful. We stress when packing cars (I don’t, but I’ve read where some guys do…um, anyway); we stress on the drive with kids being a bit excited; we stress in making sure we see all of the family members we should…on and on. But the fruit of the Spirit can and should be evident in our lives…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
(Galatians 5:22-26 ESV)
Since the Spirit resides in our lives, He must preside in our lives. We must be intentional to seek the Spirit’s rule, as we kill sin and promote obedience according to His Word.
This engagement would also include gospel-telling. The Christmas season affords some more natural connections and conversations. However, you still have to be intentional. We’d like to believe that gospel-telling is natural for the Jesus follower, but it’s not…at least as not as natural as it should be. One of the most practical things you can do to be more intentional in gospel-telling, is to be more intentional in worship. The fact is, we more naturally discuss the things (person) that we are most interested in and treasure the most.
That said, remember that the gospel is good news. It is good news of the glorious God of the universe, redeeming sinful man through the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. This redemption will be evidenced in the repentance and faith (turning from love and trust of the world, which is seen, to love and trust the more beautiful reality, Jesus Christ, who is unseen). So, tell this like it’s actually GOOD news. It is! Clearly this comes across most clearly when you are living as if this is the best news you’ve ever heard for yourself.
This gospel-engagement would include our families. Our intentionality of gospel engagement this holiday season starts NOW. We must not merely “stamp” the season with Jesus stickers on the 24th-25th. Our hearts drift in affection. Keep the story of the coming of the God-man Christ in front of the entire home…daily. Fight for this. There will be lots vie for your attention.
One way to help this engagement is not to skip attending church. Find a gospel-centered church wherever you are (we have Christmas Eve service @ 5pm and Christmas day service @ 10:30am) and get your family there. What a great way to guard the priority of remembering the grace gift of Jesus Christ! However, avoid the legalism that can be so insidious. Remember, this is gospel engagement, not religion / ritual engagement.
All of this intentionality will be lived out in three contexts: 1) Private; 2) Family; 3) Community
- Private context – Don’t wait until January 1st to start reading the Bible through. The first week of the year is tough. Start now, work a plan, and forge into the new year already halfway through Genesis. This is also a great time to renew personal Bible study, meditation, and memorization. You will not engage the gospel with others if you are not preaching this gospel to yourself. And there is no preaching to self apart from the Word. Sure, a faithful preacher is a great help, but we are charged to keep the gospel in front of us daily through the Scripture. Also, find a good book to keep you tethered during the holidays. Here’s ONE I’m working on…
- Family context – Don’t forget that you are first and foremost called to engage your family with the gospel. Take advantage of every aspect of the holidays: Pray for travels; Christmas facts and stories read; New Year resolutions…gratitude, recollect mercies, trusting His Sovereign hand, etc. Re-engage with family worship if that has been neglected. Pray privately with your spouse (this is a personal one I’m wanting to work on in a big way). Yes, even while out of town, try to keep just 10-15 minutes of family worship moving. What a great lesson for the kids on what we do and don’t take breaks from, and what we desire to enjoy the most.
- Community – For most of us, this is going to be our families (extended). So often we settle into roles we play and just live within that during the holidays, and unless you were the family evangelist you probably don’t “naturally” speak the gospel to aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, grandparents, etc… We can’t waste these opportunities to be with those whom God sovereignly placed us amongst. I know the difficulty. I’ve got an elderly relative that I don’t believe knows Christ, and it’s intimidating to speak to her about the gospel. However, whether aged or younger, part of Christmas is remembering the advent that is to come. There will be a day soon when there will be no more telling.
Holidays can be tough. Sometimes they beat us up with long days, no exercise, good (but bad for ya) food, cranky kids, too many gifts. But I believe there’s a reason we feel like punching bags at times, it’s because we’re just standing (or lying) there taking the hits. BE INTENTIONAL. Christ came, condescending to men in order to perfectly accomplish the will of the father. What condescensions do you need to make this season in order to engage your family, friends, and neighbors with the gospel? Pray. Serve. Tell (your spouse, your kids, your kindred, your neighbor…yourself).