It’s that time of year! Time for “hinting” to those likely to provide what we want for Christmas. In reading Luke’s account of Christ’s birth, I began to think of what I want for Christmas in terms of God’s gifts to mankind 2,000 years ago. Further reflection led me to consider what I want our Heavenly Father to provide for Missouri Baptists this Christmas. After all, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is made up of churches, and every New Testament church is described in the Bible as the Bride of Christ. Surely, we will not neglect our Lord’s Bride at this gift-giving season of the year! So, here’s what I find in the Christmas Story that I want for Missouri Baptists this Christmas:
I. I want Missouri Baptists to possess the joy proclaimed by the angels (Luke 2:10)!
Our gospel is the Good News of great joy! We have the greatest news the world has ever known – sin can be forgiven! The chasm between God and man has been bridged! We possess hope for the future! We can have life now, not merely existence! Our relationships with others can be repaired!
Please notice the joy the Angels proclaimed didn’t start on earth, it came to us from above! So, this joy is not dependent upon my circumstances, like a “feeling” that will come and go. No. This joy is inward and divine, therefore eternal. Our records tell us that an average of 108,000 Missouri Baptists attended Sunday School each Lord’s Day last year. What a difference 108,000 joy-filled followers of Christ can make around Missouri in 2012! Like the flu, it can become contagious, and I pray it will!
II. I want Missouri Baptists to demonstrate the obediaence of the shepherds (Luke 2:15-16)!
“The shepherds said one to another, Let us now go to Bethlehem … and they came with haste … .” One Bible commentator explained their actions this way: “They jumped over fences using the most direct route to arrive at Bethlehem.” Thank goodness, those shepherds did not debate “how” they were to accomplish their task, but fell in love with “what” needed to be done – get to Bethlehem!
I have a pet peeve regarding ministry at this point: We must never fall in love with “how” we do ministry at the expense of neglecting “what” we are to do in ministry. Take the ministry of worship. I know too many Baptists who are locked in on the “how” of worship and have forgotten the “what” worship is! Worship is the adoration and praise of the One who alone is worthy of our magnification!
“What” worship is must always have priority over “how” we do it! We can never fall in love with “how” we do things! The moment we fall in love with “how” we do things we become like a Pharisee! I know that sounds a little harsh, but Jesus’ main contention with the Pharisees was their insistence on taking a command of God, and then telling everyone “how” and “how not” to do it! Let’s get to Jesus ourselves; then, go tell others “what” they need to do to get to Jesus as well! So did the obedient shepherds! Those are our marching orders today!
III. I want Missouri Baptists to model the attitude of Mary (Luke 2:19)!
“Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” In the midst of bewildering circumstances, Mary’s heart was flooded with the attitude of peace. Peace – isn’t that what our world is desperately looking for? There is not a region of our world that is at peace today. Hardly do they know there is a Prince of Peace! Genuine peace is not a mantra to shout people down, but an attitude that is to be modeled. People do what people see.
The 6-year-old kids in their Sunday School class were re-enacting the story of the birth of Jesus. The teacher wanted them to stage it themselves based on their own made-up script, so it was certainly interesting. They had three Marys, two Josephs, six shepherds, two wise guys and one boy who played the cow. Another boy decided he would be the doctor who would deliver the baby. The teacher consented, so the little doctor went back behind the manger, picked up the doll and carefully wrapped it in a blanket. Then with a big smile on his face, he turned to the Marys and the Josephs and said,
“Congratulations, it’s a God!” Throughout the ages, many have wanted to be God, but only one God chose to become man. He is our Savior! May Missouri Baptists be joyfully obedient in delivering His message of lasting peace during this season and throughout the New Year!
GARY TAYLOR / MBC Director of Evangelism