I didn't intend to doze off.
I always look forward to attending conferences where Leith Anderson, an
expert in church growth, speaks on outreach-related topics. But he was speaking
after lunch, and as the lights in the convention hall dimmed, I drifted to the
edge of sleep. Sometime later, I was jolted awake by his words: "Christmas is a
key entry point for people into the church."
I was almost startled by the concept. In our home, Christmas has always been
a time for family. Our celebration has focused on the birth of Jesus, but I had
never before thought about growing the family of Christ at Christmas.
I didn't hear the rest of the speech that afternoon. My mind raced ahead to
consider the many doors God opens only at Christmas. Store audio systems play
"Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come." Nativity sets are featured displays.
Talk-show hosts discuss peace and hope. Churches add worship options to
accommodate the larger crowds.
Several Christmas seasons have passed since that convention session. To a
casual observer of the Simon family scene in December, it might appear that
nothing has changed. After all, even as an on mission Chris-tian I'm still
tempted to get so tangled in the trappings of the season that I forget to share
the treasure. But, as our family has become more intentional in sharing the
Christmas gospel, I've also noticed the many ways in which fellow Christians
are clearly on mission.
As your family prepares for Christmas this year, which of these ideas would
work for you? Think about options that not only remind friends and family of
the true Christmas message but give you easy opportunities to share the entire
Can people driving by see that your family celebrates the birth of
When someone walks into your living room, can they tell that you focus on
the Christ child?
During some Christmas seasons, our living room was decorated in early hay.
That's because our three children so thoroughly enjoyed the tradition of
preparing the manger for the Christ child.
In the sometimes tension-filled week before Christmas, our children added
one piece of straw to the manger--every time he or she did a kind deed or had a
The heart-warming result: when Christmas Eve arrived, baby Jesus had a
cradle overflowing with signs of love.
As you crunch the snow on winter walks through your neighborhood, you might
look for families that practice another tradition our family adopted: the
Each day, you'll see the silhouettes of various nativity figures as they
move from windowsill to windowsill, ever closer to the manger.
By Christmas Eve, the window-sills will be empty because all the figures are
in the stable, awaiting His arrival.
Purchase Christ-honoring gifts
Will friends and relatives receive gifts which support your on mission
efforts to share Christ with these people throughout the year? Will the
presents you buy reflect the gifts of love first shared by the Magi?
Statistics vary, but researchers estimate that only one in 10 practicing
Christians shop at a Christian bookstore. So, before you shop the mall, shop
your local Christian store or order from Christian catalogs. You'll find
T-shirts, software, videos, music and beautiful framed pieces of art.
Grand-parents who are in the heart-breaking position of seeing grandchildren
being raised without knowing Christ often find that Christmas is the one time
of year when religious gifts are accepted.
Family traditions can even be shaped to reflect the priority of selecting
Christ-honoring gifts. For example, if you always give a niece a box of
stationary for holiday thank-you notes, this year you might select notes with a
Bible verse incorporated into the design. Close friends and relatives might
purchase a new Bible each Christmas for a special child or grandchild.
One year, our "family gift" to friends was a Jesus birthday cake. Our
children loved setting up the nativity sets in different designs on each of the
caketops. They added the number of birthday candles that happened to be
Seek opportunities to serve
At this time of year, who needs what you can offer? What can you give?
Although giving a wrapped gift can be meaningful, there is nothing more
significant than the gift of oneself. Especially during the busy holidays, the
gift of time and caring can be more valuable than any fancy package. You might
ask your pastor for names of shut-ins to visit.
Schools, clubs, teams and church groups of all kinds participate in various
types of collections for the needy. Our friends went a step farther. They asked
for permission to personally deliver the gifts, which had been collected by the
third grade classroom. Although some agencies limit direct contact with
clients, the experience of having a personal contact with an obviously needy
family created an indelible memory for our friends and their three children.
This genuine concern can also open a dialog about faith.
Look for outreach opportunities
What doors will God open to reach a member of your family? Whose life would
be changed by the message of Christmas?
"Hearts come home at Christmas" reads a popular holiday card. That's one of
the reasons it's so natural to help people make a heart connection with Jesus
during this season. Being an on mission Christian at Christmas is easier for me
than at any other time: even holiday jewelry and music pave the way for me to
share the message!
But I also appreciate the ways in which our church actively supports
outreach during the holidays. We can address pre-stamped postcards to friends
or relatives. The cards are labeled "refrigerator reminder" and printed with
the holiday worship schedule.
Worship is offered at numerous times, so whether presents are opened early
or late, going to church can still be a part of the traditional family schedule
from year to year. Additional information packets are prepared and readily
available for guests, which helps visitors feel welcome.
Traditions have often been defined as the glue that holds a family together.
But in today's postmodern era, traditions can also reflect a family sharing
Christ. A step-grandparent might be amazed as his newly added grandson shares
his drawings of a nativity scene. Your new daughter-in-law might hear the
Christmas story for the first time when you continue the annual tradition of
reading Luke 2 before sitting down for the holiday meal. These real-life
situations will be repeated this year in living rooms throughout the United
States and Canada.
The images of a Currier & Ives Christmas are etched in my mind, but the
holiday we will celebrate in 1998 is far different from that of previous eras.
The family that gathers for your Christmas dinner may have added or lost
members since last year. The family group itself might be dramatically
different from even five years ago.
And, although the changes may bring emotional stress, they also may offer
The mission field is no longer just across an ocean or on another continent:
your mission field, like mine, may be as near as the person to whom you say,
Dr. Mary Manz Simon, a popular conference speaker and best-selling
author, wrote What Did Jesus Do? (Tommy Nelson) which was released
last month, and the three books in The Prince of Egypt™ values series,
which are being released this month. She also hosts a daily, one-minute
nationally syndicated program, "Front Porch Parenting" which airs on almost 200
Christian radio stations.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC