Undoubtedly the Christian event our culture has embraced most fully is Christmas. The plethora of Christmas lights, Christmas trees and other decorations are glaring testimony to this. Our culture easily adopts Christmas with its themes of peace, love, hope and joy. It also doesn’t mind the jolt to our economy that all the gift-buying provides. But what’s interesting/disturbing is that it does all this while rejecting the core truths embedded in Christmas: that Jesus is God, His one and only Son; that He came into the world as one of us because we all are sinners hopelessly alienated from God because of sin; that His death is the only way to be forgiven of that sin and spend eternity in heaven rather than hell; and that as Creator He has a divine right to exercise authority over all He has created, us included, and to actually get to define absolute truth. This incongruity of being in love with “part” of Christmas but not “all” of it is why the Christmas celebration lacks spiritual power for most people.
Bear with me here as we make a deep dive with this dynamic of being in love with the “part” but not the “whole”. You see, I think this dynamic is responsible for why the Church has become pretty much an impotent force in our world. Many of us would agree the world is changing the Church more than the Church is changing the world in recent times. Why is that? To me, the cause lies partly in that people base their commitment to the Church base on their experience of the church and not on the mission of the Church. We love/value our church because we like it. We like how it serves kids and teens. We find the worship uplifting and the preaching passable, even occasionally inspiring. We appreciate that it makes us feel better about ourselves, our futures and the world’s future. In the end, we love our church.
But that’s just a “part” of it. The church does all those things for one reason…the “whole”…to complete its mission to be the Body of Christ in urgently seeking and saving those who are lost. So all of those activities/programs/ministries are a means to an end. They are missional…doing what needs to be done to fulfill the mission, the “whole”. But when our commitment is based on the means, the “part”, and not on the “whole”, true spiritual power dissipates. World-changing power comes from being in love with the mission of the Church not how it might currently be trying to fulfill that mission. I know I’m kind of strange, but I sometimes ask myself how committed I would be to the church if the best way for it to be missional was for it to sing Gregorian Chant and sit on the floor during worship? I know I wouldn’t like it, but would I be committed to it if it reached people far from God? Until we can all say yes, the church will struggle to have full power to change the world. We have to be in love with the mission of the Master, not just the means of its servant.
All this to say: Christmas is a great time to ask yourself if you are truly in love with God’s mission? Jesus showed up in a manger in Bethlehem for one reason…to seek and save those who far from God and to give His life as a ransom for many. At the end of His life, He sent us the way He as sent. Can you love it no matter what the means looks like? I hope so for the world’s sake.