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Celebrating The Mission

The new year is upon us and Christmas has come and gone but allow me one more look into that holiday. What has been most meaningful about your Christmas? The presents? Time with family? Is Christmas a celebration? Is it a mission? A banquet of food?

If the word “mission” strikes you as odd in the paragraph above (it does to me) let’s explore that concept here. See, most of what is described above is what Christmas means to us, but a mission is one way of describing what it meant for God.

Hidden in the holiday, disguised in our depictions of a peaceful manger scene is the intent of a God come to the front line of the war. Jesus stepped into our world as God in the flesh. The Scriptures highlight Christ as one:

“who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.” ~Philippians 2:6-8

Let’s take a look at what our God did when He took on human flesh:

God simply came. We sometimes think that ministry must be something grand. Often when I think about venturing beyond what is familiar I think I need to have it all together, to come armed to the teeth with all manner of tools. Jesus entered the mission field a little baby, he entrusted all that he had to God. Certainly there was a deliberateness, a time of preparation leading to coming. Gal. 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” Not only did he come, he came humbly. This is highlighted by:

Who he was born to: He was born not to a people who ruled but rather who were ruled over: In witness of this, at the time of his birth everyone was required to appear in his city to submit (Luke 2). His parents were not rich or of great status and this would influence how people saw him. Mark 6:3, “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? And they were offended at Him.

When he was born: He was born from a human perspective at a very inconvenient time. This was while his parents were travelling, and in a place so packed with people that only an animal shelter was provided for the Lord to be born in.

Where he was born: Instead of a clean hospital he had a dirty stable; for birth attendants he had only animals; no pillows or mattresses for his back but instead hay and a feeding trough for his bed. The best attendants at the time of his birth where a company of poor folks who had better places to lodge than Joseph’s. 1

Jesus went into danger and risk. When the Christmas story is told, sometimes we forget or pass over the fact that the world Christ entered was one of danger and death. In the background, Herod lurks, later killing an entire town of children to prevent challenge to his rule. Aware of the danger, Joseph retreats to another country. Not only that, consider as well the deadliness of sin. How might you react if you were informed that you had just entered a plague-ridden area? Or were ministering to someone with the HIV virus or another highly contagious killer disease. That reaction pales in comparison with what Our Sinless Lord must have felt as he came into a world infested with sin.2

He came as the answer to life’s most pressing questions. As I write this, my country is still reeling from the effects of a typhoon that hit a month ago. Many will not be able to join in the normal festivity of Christmas. But if there is any act of God that says he understands and that he responds to our pain and our suffering it is to be found especially in the Christmas message. As the Scripture above points out “And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” God entered into the worst evil this world can deliver and used it to do the best good.

He came for everlasting joy. One might think that Jesus path was that of an ascetic, practicing severe self-discipline for its own sake. But that is not what Scripture states. Hebrews 12:2 points out that Jesus endured even the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” Past his experiences He looked forward to the ultimate reward. Similarly the passage in Philippians above ends on a high note, Phil. 2:9-11 “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What an amazing Savior! May it add to your celebration and appreciation for what Jesus has done. And a great way to celebrate it is that we also have the same attitude as our Savior’s (Phil. 2:5). Just as he stepped into our lives we too are encouraged to step out into the lives of others. Philip Yancey who has written extensively on suffering in relation to God has this to say: “Today, if I had to answer the question ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ in a single sentence, I would make that sentence another question: ‘Where is the church when it hurts?’ We form the front line of God’s response to the suffering world.

Here are some ideas how:

1. Lift up your head and see the need. The rise of the internet and a globally-connected world helps us be aware of people and mission fields beyond us. Think not just of nations far away but even consider the communities who are a short walk from where we work and live. We may not be able to carry all the burdens we encounter but we can always bring them before One who can. If you see a need, bring it before the Lord in prayer. As we lift our concerns to him, we take the first step to being part of what our global God is doing.

2. Do something as you see the need. Teenagers, says one quote, have time and energy but no money. The working class have money and energy but no time. While older folk have time and money but no energy.3 The point is that we may not necessarily be able to help in one way but there are other ways that we can help anyone in need. Volunteer your time if it is something you have in abundance, advocate your passion to others if that is an area that you have to give, or if the Lord has blessed you richly in possessions or finances then that could be an area of focus. And again we don’t have to have it all, rather we need to trust God just as Christ did.

3. Do something more is the challenge for those who have helped or are already helping out in the field.

If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” states C.S. Lewis. Sometimes the reward for the Christian in this life is the opportunity to do more good. There may be limits, there may be time to have done all you can do but check your heart in this. Perhaps now is also time to do some more good, or do more good some other way.

One way I think of this is in relation to the words of Jesus that He would “build his church and not even the gates of hell can prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18. So “Where can I do the most good?” can translate into “Where can I do the most damage (to the enemy’s kingdom)?”

4. Do it in joy. And as you do these things, don’t forget joy. As we answer the call of Christ to be his hands and feet to a world in need may it all be because we want to have that attitude of Christ Jesus. That we made be found in him and that our joy may be full.

References:

1. Paul Smith uses this illustration in the book “Jesus: Meet Him Again… for the First Time
2. Points are based on a message given by Samuel Willard “Christ Humbled Himself
3. Quote attributed to Annette Gulick

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