How to incorporate your faith into Christmas celebrations
Perhaps the most anticipated season of the year is now upon us! Our cars and coat closets are stuffed with wrapping paper, purchased gifts, décor and festive food. We are ready for another year of memories and cheer. But how often do we pause our plans to ponder how we can share the gospel this season?
There are abundant ways to incorporate our faith into celebrating the beloved Christmas holiday. After all, Christ’s coming is the reason we celebrate! A myriad of ministry leaders have pondered this very idea of evangelism at Christmastime and shared with us some of their most cherished thoughts.
Debbie Ellegen, missionary to soldiers in Wyoming through Cadence International
We are part of a mission (Cadence International), and part of our tag line as a mission (from 1 Thessalonians 2:8) is “sharing the gospel and our lives” with the military. We are currently in Cheyenne, Wyoming, reaching out to airmen at FE Warren AFB. In addition to holiday meals, there are a lot of “regular” meals. Overseas, we opened our home (including meals) most nights of the week, and here in the States we are on base several nights a week (including meals) — always around a table.
Something almost magical happens when we sit down together to share a meal. It’s not just holiday meals, but all through the year. Relationships are built, conversations started and little-by-little trust is gained — so that important conversations about the Lord often occur. One of the most memorable moments to me was when one soldier said, “This is the first family I’ve felt part of. I’ll never forget it.”
This type of work takes time and often it seems “nothing is happening,” but every so often you hear from someone from another time or another place and you get a glimpse that the Lord was doing His “thing” in His way and in His time.
Paul Akin, dean, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Beyond explicit conversations about Christ and the gospel, look for ways to serve your family members during the holidays. Let your conduct be that of a servant and let your genuine love and compassion create opportunities for conversation and discussion. In the end, prayerfully look for open doors and boldly share the hope of the gospel as opportunity arises.
The conversation at times may be tense and awkward. But it is always good for us to remember that eternity is at stake. The person you are talking to is someone created in the image of God and loved by God — and God desires to rescue, redeem and reconcile them to Himself.
Brian Hinton, regional campus minister at the University of Louisville
As I begin to think about how to witness to my family, two examples from scripture come to mind.
First is the passage John 1:35-42, where Andrew — after encountering Jesus — searches for his brother (Peter), tells him about Jesus and then brings him to Jesus. The second example is Luke 8:26-39 where Jesus heals a man with demons. Jesus tells the man in Luke 8:39, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you…”
As I apply these biblical examples to the holiday season, the following stands out:
1. Pursue your immediate circle of influence. In both examples, Andrew and the demoniac, they pursued their immediate circle of influence — their family.
2. Tell what Jesus has done in your life. Nothing beats an authentic testimony about what God as done for you. Family seeing God’s impact in your life is a powerful witness.
3. Tell what Jesus is currently doing in your life. Around the table eating, watching sports or just catching up on the family’s 411 are a few ways to simply mention how God is continuing to work in your life.
Remember to keep Jesus in the forefront of your mind because, ultimately, He is the reason for every season of your life.
Timothy Beougher, associate dean, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of West Broadway Baptist Church
First, be encouraged that people expect to hear about Jesus during December. The Christmas season makes it natural to talk about Him. We host a Christmas party for the neighborhood where we provide cookies, hot cider, hot chocolate and coffee. We give each of the neighbors a small gift — a CD with Christmas music, the Jesus film on CD or a small book explaining the true meaning of Christmas.
With family, reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 before Christmas dinner or before opening presents reminds everyone that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Use your annual Christmas letter to family and friends to clearly communicate gratitude to God for His many blessings, especially the blessing of salvation.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church and president of the Southern Baptist Convention
Christmas is an incredible time to gather with loved ones to celebrate the birth of our Savior. What better time to invite our unbelieving friends into our homes to show them the difference the good news of Jesus Christ has made in our lives? I invite you to prayerfully consider how you and your family can maximize the impact you can make for the kingdom of God this Christmas season.
Ruth Ripken, retired IMB Missionary (35 years of service)
Living overseas for 35 years has taught me many things about hospitality. Serving and blessing others as they come into your home was such a vital part of every culture wherever we lived. No matter how much or little the host/hostess had, they always wanted to give us their best. Don’t just be willing to give or serve, but also be willing to receive. As you meet the nations living around us, you will find that you receive so much more than you will ever be able to give.
Marina Shelton reports for the Western Recorder. She is associate for web and social media communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.