Christmas brings lots of traditions….many of which involve decorations. We put up lights. We put up trees. We put up nativities. We put up wreaths. We put out special Christmas dishes. We put up all kinds of things to signal the season and celebrate the coming of Christ. But often we do those things for ourselves. We do them inside, but are we bothering to do anything outside? Ok, maybe a few strands of lights at the house, but what about the church? Would someone who doesn’t attend have any idea of the festivities inside based on what has changed during Advent?
What is it that tells the world Jesus is coming? We could put lights on the outside of the church and pretend it’s the lights and the ornaments and the decorations…but that actually only highlights what people already know (culturally, that is, Christmas is a time of shopping, baking, and decorating). But, as Christians, Christmas is meant to be more than what the culture knows. Christmas is about the indwelling of Emmanuel—God with us. We’re called to celebrate Christmas over and again, not just to remember (though that’s certainly part of it) that God came once, but to know and share that God is Emmanuel every day, not just on that one day.
As people called to follow and imitate Christ, God is with us. And, for many, we become the “only Christ they will know.” We aren’t just supposed to wait for him to do something. But we are called to be do-ers of the Word who live like Christ and share his gifts with others. in many ways, we are invited to give rise to the Kingdom of God here on earth.
So, the question becomes, how are we doing that? How are we a living example of what Christ has done, but also what he is doing, and will do in the future? Are our lives a proclamation of the Good News? Do people feel the love of Christ when they are with us? Do they feel known and accepted for who they are? Loved? Appreciated? Not just the people who know us and love us, but the strangers and the outsiders. How do they encounter us? What about our witness tells them that Jesus is coming and that’s a good thing?
I’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of jackets, coats, and blankets for those living on the street in Spokane—that’s a living witness to Jesus’ generosity. The gifts you are getting for Christmas for Kids will tell children they are important, valued, and loved. The cards you will send and the cookies you will make tell people they are remembered and cherished. Each of those things are a living witness. God is with us in those places. And God has the potential to be even more present in our lives and in our witness. It doesn’t have to involve spending money or giving tangible gifts. It also involves time, care, inclusion, and intentionality.
Christmas is just 3 weeks away. That time may go quickly, but it will provide plenty of moments in which we can show grace, love, and kindness that mimics Christ. Will people know Christ through you?