‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’ (Is. 9:2)
In a world that grows darker by the minute, we can feel in desperate need of light. On our street, Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, has just ended, a week of fireworks and porches bedecked with lights. In other houses down the street, people are putting up their Christmas decorations early; through the windows you can see the faint triangular glow of the tree–lights.
As Christians, we know of a greater light, one that doesn’t just light up a living room, or a tree, but one whose presence drives away all darkness – the Light of Christ. And as Christmas approaches, we can feel a growing desire to speak into the darkness – to tell others that the light that has stepped into this dark world can come into their world too.
Yet in this time of pandemic and lockdowns, reaching out can feel so much harder. We are cut off from our colleagues, our closest friends, our family members, those who we would usually try to share the good news with over Christmas. Every year we’ve been told, Christmas is the best time to invite someone to a church service or a carol concert. But what about when church doors are shut, when services move online, and we are no longer allowed to sing carols together?
I’ve been encouraged lately by a song by Drew Miller, ‘Into the Darkness ‘, which calls on us to ‘make peace, make dinner, make room’ and step out into the darkness of this world. The challenge is this, whatever our circumstances, who can we make room for, and how?
Redefine Your Mission Field
Recently, I was in a call where young mother was lamenting that she had not spent much time meeting with her non–Christian colleagues while on maternity leave; she felt she was failing in her outreach. Her husband turned to her and said, ‘I think you might need to redefine your mission field – your two children, you’re reaching them.’
For each of us, this Christmas, we may have to redefine our mission fields – looking at who we can reach, who might be right in front of us. That may look like a mum and child, giving a book as a gift for the busy bin–man or post–man. It may look like a home–worker, setting up a zoom–social for their colleagues. It may look like a family taking a plate of cookies and bible booklets round to the neighbours. Even in our small Christmas gatherings or over zoom, we can be opening up conversations with secular family members or including someone in our Christmas celebrations.
Throughout this pandemic I’ve been encouraged by people who have said ‘Let’s not focus on what we can’t do. Let’s think of all that we can do.’ It’s easy to get discouraged by thinking of all the opportunities we’ve lost, instead of the opportunities that we have. Before we feel under pressure to develop whole new habits, let’s start with what we are already doing. What has been your favourite way of connecting with people over the last few months? Video calls? Games? Walks? What has your church been doing so far to gather people?
Then we can begin to think outside the box. I’ve often found that ‘Constraints invite creativity’. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but not been able to? What one new thing would you like to try? And for those who baulk at the idea of creativity – think of it like this, creativity is problem–solving. It’s seeing the challenge and coming up with solutions or borrowing someone else’s. That may be taking food round to a single mum and presents for her kids, putting a Christmas poster in the window, setting up a book table outside your house, or mailing a carol service CD to an old friend. God is still at work even in our smallest offerings, even in these unusual times.
In the Manger
We may long to be in carol concerts, hearing the rustle of carol sheets and the pause before the music swells, but we can be encouraged that Jesus is just as present with us in our homes and dinner tables. We may long to bring people into our church services, but we know that God can work just as well in their hearts as they watch along on their screens. I’m reminded that the first Christmas took place in less than ideal circumstances – I’m sure Mary would have preferred a warm room to give birth in and a cradle in which to lay her new–born child. Still, God was pleased to use the humbleness of that situation to show his awesome glory. Let’s pray that God uses our humblest efforts this Christmas to share the good news of his light to the world.