I’m drinking coffee at a restaurant in Bangkok, listening to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” play softly over the music system. A smile spreads across my face. Here in Thailand, where it is quite warm, I’ll certainly not be seeing snow! It is December, though, and time to consider my Christmas plans. What will I do with Christmas this year? The question scrolls across my mind, begging attention.
For years, I’ve resisted the commercialism of the holiday and the grand busyness it creates. Instead, I’ve endeavored to embrace the season as a wonderful time to proclaim Jesus’ story. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve found this a time when people are more open to hearing His message than at other times of the year.
In the past, we’ve called people to take a Christmas challenge. Asking all to share the story of Jesus with at least one person on each day leading up to December 25th. I’m a bit late for that this year.
A recent trip to Africa set me back a bit on getting that arranged. It’s not too late to think carefully about how to best steward the opportunity this special month provides. How about you? How will you make good use of this chance to make our Lord’s story known to others?
Swallow, Egusi Soup, and Contemplations of Catholicism
We sat around the living room, enjoying plates of swallow and egusi soup (classic Nigerian fare.) I listened as these wonderful disciple-makers shared how they had come to know Jesus as Savior. A number came from Catholic backgrounds. One found the Lord through the Catholic charismatic renewal. Beloved friends, we’d come to meet them and see the work they were doing. This would help us better coach and mentor toward the release of Disciple Making Movements in their areas.
For many coming out of Catholicism, a bitter taste remains. That was so for a number of these friends.
Over the delicious food, we chatted about the importance of finding bridges when ministering to Catholics. It’s the same as when we seek to share with people from Muslim or Hindu backgrounds. I shared the insights I’d received from reading Catholic writers like Henri Nouwen and others. Though many Catholics have never heard the full gospel, there are indeed good things to be learned from Catholic friends. Not all their traditions are meaningless. Some Cathoics have genuine relationships with Christ though little familiarity with Scripture.
One of the traditions I’ve grown to appreciate is the observance of the Advent season. In my Pentecostal tradition, we didn’t do this much. It has Catholic origins.
Ruth Haley Barton (Strengthen the Soul of Your Leadership podcast), introduced me to the beauty of celebrating the Advent season. Ever since this has been a regular and meaningful experience.
3 Tips to Make the Most of the Holiday Season
1. Determine to share Jesus’ story with at least a few people who have never heard it before.
As mentioned above, this season is an easier time to start spiritual conversations. Many in the West, and in Christian Africa, are disillusioned with the materialism and demands of the holiday season. How can you use that as a bridge to share the life-giving aspects of Advent you are experiencing?
All around us are those who know of Santa Claus and Christmas trees but have no real understanding of the story of Christ’s miraculous birth. Is there an immigrant family that recently came to your city? Could you invite them over for a meal and use the nativity scene to explain more of the story of God becoming human, and all it means to you?
Set a goal and share it with your Discovery Bible study group or a close friend. How many people will you plan to share Jesus’ story with this year?
2. Resist the spirits of materialism and religion that pull hard at us in this season.
It is easy to fall into the trap of busyness, running around to make purchases and get our decorations up. Or if that isn’t your tradition, we can get just as busy with church programs and activities, or the planning of the Christmas feast at church.
Talk to God about your focus this December and realign yourself according to His leading. What does He want you to focus on? Is there anything you should say “no” to this year to spend more time making disciples?
3. Focus on Jesus and the meaning of Advent- His coming.
Set aside special time to welcome Him in a fresh way into your life.
There is something wonderful about joining millions of other Jesus followers to meditate on scripture together. Here is a list of scriptures you can meditate on each Sunday while following the Revised Common Lectionary with others.
Discuss these scriptures in your DBS group, or with friends from the traditions that read these verses in their churches. Perhaps this would be a bridge to invite them to join you in a Discovery Study.
Another resource I’ll be using this advent is a book by Tim Keller called “Hidden Christmas.” Watch for snippets from this book each day leading up to Christmas on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter. Join me and let your heart grow still as we wait in wonder for the celebration of our Savior’s birth!
How will you prepare your heart and life for Christmas this year? Let me know in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.