Dec14WedDecember 14, 2016
I have fond childhood memories of our extended-family Christmas gatherings. These events would usually include food, exchanging gifts, and singing various Christmas hymns. However, on more than one occasion, the aunts and uncles would assign various parts of the Christmas story to family members. Then, we'd take time to read and act out portions of Luke 2 and Matthew 1-2. Ideally, it was best to be assigned the role of Mary or Joseph because it gave you an excuse to ride on the back of one of the larger uncles – who played the “donkey.”
Over the years, I have come to recognize how uniquely blessed our family was to have so many authentic, Christ-followers at these gatherings. Most families, and perhaps yours, have a very different spiritual dynamic.
When you are surrounded by relatives, are there some whose faith has grown cold, or who have never publicly confessed faith in Jesus, or those who are outwardly hostile towards the Christian faith? If so, you are not alone. Many Christians can resonate with the Apostle Paul who said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart (Romans 9:2)” as he considered how his Jewish relatives had grown hostile towards the good news of Jesus.
In Romans 9 (from this past week’s Daily Scripture reading), Paul was considering why it is that some people (specifically the Jewish people) rejected Jesus and others came to believe in him. To put it simply, why does your uncle believe, your cousin scoff and your sister brush off the person of Jesus Christ?
Unfortunately, this is one of those questions for which we have little answer other than ‘because this is in-line with the purpose and plan of God.’ Some of our relatives and friends have received the mercy of God and others have rejected the mercy of God…and He has ordained both.
This can be hard news to receive. However, this does not mean that we are left without a hope of this changing. Nor does it leave us ‘mission-less’ this Christmas season.
Instead, we ought to be praying along with Romans 9:25 and pleading for opportunities for grandparents and cousins, who are not God’s people, to be transformed into God’s people yet this year. Christmas, as a celebrated holiday, can give us enormous opportunities to talk in-depth with family members about real subjects like marriage, parenting, goal-setting...and faith. Even if you’ve had faith conversations before, don’t dismiss the possibility that God may stir your relative’s heart back to Himself THIS SEASON.
As you prepare for Christmas gatherings, pray for Spirit-led opportunities to talk about Jesus. Pray for boldness and gentleness. Feel free to use our Christmas Eve service or Christmas morning worship service as an opportunity to ‘bring-up’ faith. Who knows? It is possible that in kitchens and living rooms - “in the very place where it was said that they are not God’s people, there they will be called ‘sons and daughters of the living God’” (v26). It is possible that the story of Jesus may be the prevailing narrative at gatherings yet to come. Next year, your uncle may actually ask to read the Christmas story for all to hear!