Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted [that it was really He]. Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
These five verses are known, collectively, as The Great Commission. And I think it is especially relevant to talk about them in relation to my post yesterday, as well as the Christmas season, which is the season of Hope. The Great Commission is the evangelizing instructions given to the Apostles after Jesus's crucifixion and before His ascension. It is also the holy agenda we, as Believers in Him, are to follow in each generation until His return.
Jesus has just defeated Death, and it was done by supernatural means and outside the spectrum of time, as we know it. And He announces that all Authority and Power have been given to Him, and it is by faith in Him that we too, can defeat Death. But it is important that all people learn of Him, believe in Him, and obey His words. The Apostles were given the initial commission to spread that message, and it is now our appointment to continue it.
There are many in the Christian community who have taken the words, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations", to mean a calling to institute international missions. But I think the more exact meaning is to share the Gospel message, wherever you go. In other words, our mission field is literally every inch of ground that our feet touch; every opportunity that presents itself to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And what better, or more fertile ground, than this Christmas season? Now I realize that there are also those in the Christian community that object to the celebration of Christmas because of its pagan roots. I must admit that I am a Believer that sees those pagan influences in our modern celebration of Christmas and mourn the fact that they are associated with our Savior. I also deplore the history of the commercialization of Christmas for profit, and feel that aspect also diminishes the Holiness of Christ. And I am quite aware that Jesus was not born on December 25th.
HOWEVER, all that being said, there is still something unique, expectant, and anticipatory about this special holiday in our culture. Most people associate Christmas with the idea of Jesus's birth -- even if, like the atheists and humanists -- they object to it. For most people it is a season of giving and kindness; hearts are softened and people are more open to each other. What better time to evangelize and plant the seeds of the Gospel in a person's soul? And we must recognize that Christmas is also a season in which people are hurting and in pain. We can be about our work of evangelizing as we share the love of God during Christmas; the Love that sacrificed His own beloved Son so that we might win our own victory over Death.
My point is that we cannot cherry pick the seasons in which we evangelize or share the news about what Jesus has done for us. If we allow our varying opinions about Christmas to divide us, or to go so far as to move us to shun the holiday, then we are missing a golden opportunity to carry out our great commission. And we all know that part of our commission is to be prepared to answer the tough questions about God and who He is. But we also know that the hearts of people must be prepared and softened, as well, in order to receive the Good News we are prepared to share. Softened hearts and the celebration of Christmas go hand in hand.
So what better time than Christmas to properly introduce people to the true Jesus, who is so much more than the baby in the manger? We should seize the moment and take advantage of this cultural situation to tell them He is more than the "peace and goodwill towards men" that has been commercialized in the history of our cultural holiday.
Some of the hard questions we get from non-believers concern God's unfairness -- how unfair it is that whole nations are slaughtered in His Name; and what an unfair God He is to allow poor people to starve while others grow richer. But we can take the opportunity that Christmas affords us to share the fact that God's amazing unfairness is the picture of Christ; a picture put on display for all the world to see. We can share that God's unfairness is to their advantage, because God is actually being unfair to Himself!
You see, in God's Sovereignty, He has every right to punish us and banish us for our disobedience to Him, but because of the life and sacrifice of Jesus, we are given His Grace and Mercy. Christmas is not just about the birth of the Christ child in the manger. It is about God loving us so much that He is willing to sacrifice Himself, rather than see one of us perish.
So this Christmas season, if you are a Christian that has trouble celebrating Christmas as you did as a child, try this: Don't focus on the paganism of the holiday, or the cultural worship, and the consumerism. Let the Birth (and Death) of Christ be the reason to share the Gospel. Let Him be your focus, and let this Joyous Season be the catapult for your evangelism efforts and the undertaking of your Great Commission. For, it matters not that the world celebrates December 25th -- because the Master, Himself, said He is constantly with us, regardless of circumstance and on every occasion. Let Him, and the Power of the Holy Spirit, flow through you this Christmas season as you share the Good News of His birth, so that He could die for us and provide a way for us to receive everlasting life. What could be more important than that?
As Christians, we have free will to celebrate Christmas (or not) in a manner that we feel pleases God, and it is not necessary that we all agree. Your decision is between you and God, and should not divide or separate us. But it should also not supersede our Great Commission and our directive from our Lord -- that should take priority over all the lights, decorations, and gifts, shouldn't it? So, I invite you to step outside yourself and the culture this Christmas, and consider making it all about Him!