Most of us are deep in the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas. We are purchasing presents for loved ones, visiting the grocery store for supplies to prepare the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals – and making arrangements for who is hosting what during the next several days. Let’s face it – it’s a ton of work! Not to say that it can’t be joyful, but there’s a lot to it – all the planning and school events and memories of decades past – remembering when we were young and receiving the bulk of the presents.
But that’s not the kind of “work” I’m writing about tonight. Rather, it is the work that we, as Christians, are expected to do as a RESULT of the birth of Christ, not in anticipation of His birth. In other words, we may be peaking a little early…
Let me explain… Last night, a dear friend of mine, Dave, sent me a song sung by a local choir. It was a beautiful arrangement and the words were based on a poem by Howard Thurman (1899-1981). The words of the poem are hauntingly powerful and I am grateful that Dave included them with the song that was sung. They are as follow:
“The Work of Christmas”
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
I have been thinking about these words all day. You see, we spend our time awaiting the arrival of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords but rarely do we stop and think about what responsibilities that entails for us – those of us who believe in Jesus and have surrendered our lives to Him. We are required – in fact, commanded, to invade the broken places of the world and help to end poverty, isolation, hatred, decay of the environment, injustice and separation from God. That’s a tall order! After all, the church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and, sometimes, we don’t do our part very well.
The birth of Jesus was when He, God, invaded the world in human form and became a model of behavior for us to follow. He came to save the world and expects us to sign on and endorse His mission. Then, we have to act! Jesus spent his earthly ministry feeding the poor, healing the sick and changing the world. He gave up His life for us and then was raised from the dead to reign for all eternity.
So the birth of Jesus is just the beginning of the journey. Yes, it’s fine to celebrate but there’s much more to it than that. Our verse for this evening gives us the words of Jesus as He was teaching His disciples. And quite a lesson it was – because Jesus talked about the work of being a Christian. He tells us, in Mathew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus gets excited when we demonstrate that we are in sync with His mission on earth. My prayer is that as we celebrate the arrival of Jesus with the giving of gifts we may also prepare, with a humble heart, for the work of Christmas! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…