Boiling it down, Christmas is about the coming of God in Christ to make the world better. Yes, it was fuelled by the Father’s love, and yes, it involved him forfeiting his glory in heaven to trudge earth’s streets with us, his death and resurrection…forgiveness, atonement, the defeat of Satan and death itself! And this should move us deeply and release passionate, bowed-down worship of our King - dancing in the streets and heart-felt affection for him.
However, everything Jesus taught and modelled pointed to the fact that he wanted his followers to help make the world better too. Now of course we can’t defeat death, but to honour Christ and celebrate his coming this Christmas, we can simply ask: How can I make the world better?
There are some tasty temptations lurking here that we must address before responding to this question. The first is to say that we are making the world better by blessing our own – our immediate family. We must always be making the world better by healing, enriching and empowering the lives of those God has given us to share earthly life in this special way. No debate here! However, doing this does not remove our responsibility to make the world better by intentionally touching the lives of those outside our immediate family in life-giving ways. This is because Jesus came for the whole of humanity – this was his family. And as Jesus becomes our brother through faith, it is also OUR family!
The second temptation lurking here, stemming from our time poverty, is to think that throwing money at the needy or marginalised is the same as taking responsibility for making the world better. Let me say that it’s not completely off target. My work with Mustard Seed Global (www.mustardseedglobal.org) has shown me that money is greatly needed to help the disadvantaged in our world. How else can we help rural village people in Papua New Guinea whose lives are diminished because they don't have access to the medical services we take for granted? How can families displaced by war survive or get on their feet again? But I have also learnt that money without love, hope, friendship, dignity, faith and vision – the sorts of things that can only be given life-on-life, achieves relatively little in terms of what matters. Money is needed BUT ALSO friends of Jesus full of faith, hope and love who are willing to GO, be with the disadvantaged, and give away something of themselves to them.
Giving our money away is a good thing, but when we stop seeking to give our lives away we stop being the church of Jesus Christ.
This Christmas as you allow your heart to worship Christ, as you bless those in your immediate family, and seek to give of your resources to the needy, I urge you to then ask again: How can I make the world better? How can I give my life away to make another life better? This is what it means to honour Christ and celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to give his life away for the whole human family.
I pray that your Christmas is rich in ways that send ripples through the halls of heaven and bless your soul with deep peace and joy.