Christmas and Missions

Posted on December 21, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

In all the festivity that surrounds the season it is easy to ignore the fact that at the heart of Christmas is the mission of God. Buying presents, decorating our homes, enjoying music we listen to only at this time of year and indulging in goodies we would not otherwise eat, obscure the significance of what we celebrate. Oh, we keep the birth of Christ central in the midst of all the commercialization, but do we ignore why this event occurred?

More than one pastor has been confronted by a puzzled church member, wondering why we emphasize missions at this time of year when everyone’s agenda is overwhelmed by shopping, choir presentations, Christmas parties and travel to family reunions. Other mission causes and charitable agencies appeal for donations in order to capitalize on end of the year tax deductions, but the Christmas season has always been the time Southern Baptists collect the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions.

Lottie Moon, a pioneer missionary to China, appealed to churches to take an offering the week before Christmas to send more missionaries. She wrote, “Is not this the most appropriate time, when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of ‘The Gift’ laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race?” She went on with her challenge, reasoning, “From abounding riches we ought to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth.”

She obviously captured what many miss in the perfunctory reading of the birth of Jesus. “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). The angels declared that this one who was born was none other than “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Don’t miss this significance of this proclamation. This was “good news of great joy which shall be for all people” (Luke 2:10)! The heart of the Christmas message is the familiar John 3:16 that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

We are thankful that birth of Jesus brought salvation to all who believe, that He was born for us. But we should not celebrate Christmas from a smug, self-centered joy of being among those who have received this Savior and can be secure in our salvation. It should remind us that the proclamation of the angels needs to continually be spread abroad until all hear the good news. God sent His Son for the whole world.

It is incredible that multitudes of people still do not know that a Savior was born of God. Researchers tell us that as many as 1.5 billion people have not even heard the name of Jesus. Though billions of others know of Christianity as an optional religious worldview, and may even know that someone called Jesus is the focus of worship, they have not heard why this is good news of great joy.

I have heard more than one missionary tell of penetrating an unreached people group and sharing the Christmas story in a remote village. The people were receptive and acknowledged this is the most wonderful story they had heard but then expressed skepticism that it was true. They explained, “If there was a God who loved us and became a man in order to die for our sins, someone would have brought this news to us long ago.”

The shepherds obviously shared all that they had seen and heard. As Christmas reminds us of what we have seen and heard it should remind us of our mission to “declare His glory among the nations and tell of His salvation to the ends of the earth.” Christ came in order to die for all peoples, but many are still waiting to hear of this good news of great joy. Christmas is at the heart of the mission of God and should be the impetus for fulfilling that mission.

One Comment on “Christmas and Missions”

  1. Carra

    Wishing you the most blessed Christmas ever. I will be with my VA kids & grandkids this year. My son, Robert & Bayram are both without jobs but we are rejoicing that Robert has survived the removal of a kidney with a baseball size malignant tumor (no other treatment needed) Gallbladder removal and a major attack of pancreaitis. He and the rest of the family are all doing fine. Continuing to pray for you

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