One of the traditions I enjoyed as a pastor was leading the church in a Christmas Eve worship service. It was similar in every church — sing a few carols, preach a message, share in the Lord’s Supper and then the lighting of individual candles. To conclude, we would hold our candles and sing “Silent Night.” Just reflecting on this brings back great memories.
One area that evolved was a discussion on receiving an offering in that service. For sure, this would be one of the larger services each year and members are inclined to give.
As a staff, we also knew that many families had several stops to make that evening. A leadership meeting was held to discuss shortening the service and directing people to give in designated boxes upon exiting and thus save a few minutes in the worship service.
What followed was a wonderful theological discussion.
“Jesus” is the focus of worship. Worshippers should to hear a message of faith, hope and love that comes through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Others” is the mission of worship. Members in the church need to hear the gospel imperative to reach their world for Christ through evangelism.
“You” should be changed in true worship. When people hear the gospel message, it challenges them to be more like Him. Believers should grow in their discipleship with Christ.
Upon reflection of these truths, the congregations I pastored received an offering during the Christmas Eve service. Many would joyfully give their tithes and additional offerings during that service. Others would be challenged to share their financial blessings and assist in helping the less fortunate. All would be given the opportunity to reflect upon the birth and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One snowy Christmas Eve, I arrived early at Fort Mitchell Baptist Church to prepare for our candlelight service. A person in need knocked on the door. I answered the door and heard the personal story of this struggling young man. It was almost time for the service so I encouraged him to join us.
By God’s grace, he sat next to a beloved member that was spiritually sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Upon passing the offering plate, Sandra Strunk befriended the guest and showed him the love that comes from a relationship with Christ. That young man received more than expected when the “plate was passed” in that special service. Later that night he would receive Jesus Christ as Savior!
I realize that the COVID-19 pandemic might restrict us from certain traditions — passing the offering plates, sitting close in the pews and perhaps even sharing in candlelight services. What it can’t change is the J.O.Y. of giving.
• Give Jesus your TIME.
• Give Jesus your TALENTS.
• Give Jesus your TREASURE.
The Kentucky Baptist Foundation stands ready to assist you in making legacy and permanent gifts to assist your church or related Baptist institutions and agencies that will truly bring joy for eternity. Merry Christmas from your KBF staff.
French Harmon is president of the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.