Lights are coming down. Trees are laying out on the curb. Christmas playlists are being replaced with Top Hits of 2022. All traces of Christmas are quickly being removed. For everything there is a season.
But is this the way we think of the message of Jesus too? Limited to the month of December, only to be packed away until Christmas season returns next year?
Social media feeds are no longer filled with tidings of comfort and joy, a Savior who became a servant for the brokenhearted. We return from the good news of Jesus to the regularly scheduled broadcast of outrage and turmoil. We are right back to canceling one another and calling out the “heresy” or ungodliness of others.
But what if we were intentional about continuing the hope of Christmas?
I recently read a piece written by Howard Thurman, an American theologian and scholar. His words speak so perfectly to the posture our hearts should have as we enter into the new year.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
The work of Christmas begins. This should be the focus of our intentions. May the people we so adamantly said “Merry Christmas” to also know us by our adamance to care for the lost, broken, and hungry.
By no means is this a purely humanitarian mission. It’s a gospel mission to love and care for the physical needs of others. What burdened the heart of Jesus should burden our own hearts—people.
As work starts back up, school breaks come to a close, and the many obligations of a new year begin to pile up, may we focus on how to carry out the work of Christmas.
The Work of Christmas Is About Others
Christianity is about being on mission. The central focus of the faith is to love God and love others. Our focus is not on changing the political landscape, overturning educational systems, or responding to every obscene post on social media. Our focus should be about sharing Jesus with the world.
Oftentimes, this starts with your own family, friends, and coworkers.
Jesus’ final days were spent preparing his disciples for his death. Of course, they didn’t understand what was happening, but Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. This is what he said in one of his final conversations with his disciples.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
The best way to show people Jesus is by the way you love them. This is so counter to what we often think. Naturally, we think the best way to show people Jesus is by reciting Bible verses, telling them about the sin in their lives, or making sure they know what we do and don’t support as a believer. These are all aspects of our faith that should come out in our relationships with others, but the best way to do the work of Christmas is by loving one another.
This also means loving other Christians who you don’t see eye-to-eye with. Everyone is feeling the weight of our times—the constant outrage, division, and need to fight for your side. There are important conversations being had in our churches and in our country. But we can’t lead with strife. As believers, we have to find a better way to show the world Jesus.
We aren’t exactly getting it right by following the lead of our culture. We have to lead with what Jesus called us to lead with: loving one another as Jesus has loved you. Loving others does not mean acceptance of every action or choice. After all, that’s not how Jesus loves you. The love of Jesus continues to hold truth in tension, but one is never at the expense of the other.
The Work of Christmas Doesn’t Choose Sides
Just about every issue of our day has become partisan. I remember growing up and being advised that, as a matter of social etiquette, the two things you don’t talk about are politics and religion. At some point, that changed. Now, it doesn’t matter where you are, religion and politics are likely being discussed. It’s just like humanity to swing all the way to the other end of the pendulum. We are certainly on the other end now.
Should Christians move back to refraining from talking about partisan politics? Well, Jesus actually had a lot to say about the politics of his day, but not in the way many of us are talking about Jesus and politics today.
The Kingdom of God is very concerned with flipping the world upside down. True, this can be done through the governmental structure. But the issue is we too often want to make political arguments that attempt to prove that Jesus is on “our” side. If he were here today, this is how he would vote or the stance he would take.
The question we should seek to answer is not whether Jesus is on our side, but if we are on Jesus’ side. We should stay focused on being with God, rather than God being with us in our political views. His rule crosses party lines and is not bound to the mission of the Republican or Democratic parties.
May our stances on politics be more about aligning with Jesus and less about fitting into the mold of a political party. This requires more nuance and grace in our politics than we often display.
The Work of Christmas is Ongoing
The work of the gospel is not a one day event, but a journey. Complacency and comfortability might be one of the greatest threats to every Christian. We often view the work of the gospel as having been completed on the day of our salvation. Or the day of Christmas services when our church’s attendance nearly doubled. Or maybe the outreach event that was a huge success.
These are all milestones in the work of the gospel. Nevertheless, our mission for the Kingdom of God will not be completed until we meet Jesus face to face.
As Christians, we are on the ongoing journey of looking more like Jesus every day. You and I have not arrived. Every day should be a surrender of our former selves, as we ask Jesus to make us more like him. As people who carry the message of Jesus, we are to continue to live out and share this message until the day we die. Your work is not done. We must continue to live with that in mind.
The hope of Christmas should be the motivation behind our daily lives and not limited to once a year.