John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
John 14:6 – Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (NIV)
At this time of year, we often hear people say, "Let's keep the Christ in Christmas", or "Remember the real meaning of Christmas". But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Has anyone ever asked us? Even if they haven't asked, do they see the real meaning of Christmas in how we act?
Why would I choose the verses I've chosen for today for this time of year? John 3:16 is easy. Of course, Christmas is the time we talk about Jesus being sent to us. But what else do we talk about at Christmas? We talk of hope and peace and joy and love. About that love thing — of course we mean God's love for us, but we also mean our love for our fellow man. Compassion — that's it. We think of compassion for others at this time of year.
Let's look for a moment at Samaritan's Purse and their "Operation Christmas Child" — isn't that a neat way to show our compassion for those kids? Franklin Graham, who oversees the operation, is quick to say that the purpose of "Operation Christmas Child" is evangelism. The folks at Samaritan's Purse take those shoeboxes and then have a church distribute them to the kids. What the children get, along with a shoebox, is the Gospel. Franklin Graham makes it very clear that the purpose of "Operation Christmas Child" is to spread the Good News. (It is a great ministry to the people who make the boxes as well.) "Operation Christmas Child" is just one part of the ministry of Samaritan's Purse. Common to all parts is the purpose to draw people to them because of some act of giving — a shoebox, health-care, construction assistance, water purification assistance, etc. — and then to take the opportunity to further witness and proclaim the Gospel.
That's what I mean when I asked if people see the real meaning of Christmas in how we act. Do we show compassion? Are we witnesses for the love of Jesus? If we are, are we then taking the opportunity to further witness? It has to do with what real compassion is. Love of our fellow man expressed at this time of year by acts of compassion is not enough. This is where John 14:6 comes in. If we really love our fellow man, if we really have compassion for each of them, how can we let them be doomed? For they are doomed if they don't know Jesus. We must not just "keep the Christ in Christmas", but work to bring people to Christ at Christmas. If the way we act brings people to us this time of year, let us help bring them to Christ.
Prayer: Dear God and Father of us all, help us not just to show love at Christmas but to show the love of Jesus at Christmas. Show us what to do to make people want to know more and, with the guidance of your Holy Spirit, help us to help them know more — help us to help them know Jesus. Amen.