The Christmas story calls us to be people of compassion and peace… people who understand the generosity of God as He sent us Jesus, His one and only Son. When we grasp this reality, God was made flesh to bring us peace, we are compelled to respond with acts of compassion, peace, and generosity in the world around us.
One tangible way to live out the compassion of Christmas is to be generous globally. This time of year, we spend so much time, energy and financial resources buying things that the people in our lives don’t really need. What if we chose to spend our financial resources on making donations to charitable organizations in someone’s name? A couple of weeks ago, our family received some “charitable gift” catalogs from World Vision, Agros International, and Living Water. For $25, I can buy someone a goat or a couple of chickens. For $25, I can feed a family for a month. For $25, I can contribute to digging a well in a village in some part of the world that doesn’t have access to clean water. There are so many options for using our financial resources to begin making a dent in global poverty issues. This Christmas, choose to be agents of God’s compassion, peace, and generosity in our global world.
Here are some resources for Christmas Compassion & Global Generosity:
What other organizations do you recommend during this Christmas season and beyond?
This Sunday, in our December series Christmas Behind the Seen I talked about choosing Joy, even in our disappointment and in light of God’s promise of restoration. As part of the message, I talked about Alan and Heidi Matthew who are going through the fight of their lives as Alan was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the esophagus and lungs. In the midst of this incredibly difficult trial, Alan and Heidi are choosing joy. Here’s the unabridged version of Alan’s note he sent last week as we’ve been talking about joy, faith, and trials.
Oh Jonathan, I so much appreciate you my brother and pastor. You have truly been a new and positive influence on me as you took over for Jan. My life experience holds lots of choosing joy in trials but I must tell you it is so different this time. You see, this time I am truly focused on the Lord and what He has planned for me. With the faith in what is to come – promised by Him – I am free to choose His Joy. I cannot control my own life and have not been able to. Once I really grabbed onto that concept and it became real to me, I can surrender my cares to Him. This time it is not as conceptual, however, it has consumed me to follow what He wants me to do: look outside my own trials and reach out to others. That means sowing the seeds of Truth and bearing spiritual fruit. This lesson squares with James 1 because it grounds me. I am not tossed by the waves but can focus on God’s truth and share it with others. The test of trials makes me stronger when I have this confidence.
It has been very exciting to have non-Christian people ask me about positive attitude in the midst of trials. What they are asking me is, “What is it that allows you to be positive?” My response about having faith in the unseen future puzzles them. What they are really looking for is how they can share that confidence in facing their trials, their heartaches, and their failures. Doubt is what holds us back and throws us back into the waves (just like Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus when walking on water). I was pleased to have 9 guests to attend two RainCity Lounge performances because people were open to my invitation… because they saw something different in me when I responded to this great trial in my life.
So what is the result? Perseverance in Faith. And how does that happen in my trial? I have to ask for it. I have to ask Jesus with faith to supply it to me without doubt. This is what differs in my life today. I can ask without doubt because I believe it.
Finally, God is good. He wants the best for us, not the empty trials that enter our lives. He wants us to be stronger and more productive (John 15 – my Father prunes the branches to make them stronger and more fruitful) How am I pruned? How is it that trials make me stronger and more confident in my faith? How is it that my Lord went through all trials and more than I will ever see, yet without sin?
“I can therefore come boldly before Jesus knowing He went through trials much worse than mine and can help me overcome mine with mercy and grace in my time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
So how is this practical when facing a trial? True faith brings joy. Joy overflows when you reach out beyond yourself. People see that in you and respond. They want what they see in you. It isn’t the trial that brings the joy. It is the response to the trial that people see. My prayer is to respond to trials by asking Jesus for the extra measure of faith I need – without doubt or reservation. Believe me when I say that it is not easy to do and requires focus on Him to deliver it to me because I don’t have that kind of strength. He develops perseverance in me to make me mature and complete, and He uses trials to do that. Bless you my brother!
That’s how you choose joy, even in your disappointment because God has promised ultimate restoration in and through the Christmas gift of Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel writer Luke’s version of the Christmas story, we discover stories behind The Story… stories of Christmas Behind the Seen. In these stories, we see the lives of real people who understood the significance of The Story… the amazing reality that God would come to change everything.
In the stories behind The Story, we see blessing as young Mary looks behind the seen, recognizing the blessing of God as He has chosen her to bear Jesus, the Savior. So she responds by blessing her God. We see joy as Elizabeth anticipates the joy of God in the flesh, and she cannot contain her joy. We see compassion as Joseph chooses to see behind the seen and responds with kindness and compassion, even amidst the dramatic upheaval of his own plans. We see hope in Simeon longing for the hope of Israel. We see serving as Anna dedicates her life to the God who has come to rescue and restore.
From stories of obscurity to The Story of the Nativity, what could happen in our lives and in our world if we respond to Christmas Behind the Seen?
December 5 – “Blessing Seen”
December 12 – “Joy Seen”
December 19 – “Compassion Seen”
December 24 – “Hope Seen” (Christmas Eve Services at 2:45, 4:45, & 6:45 pm)
December 26 – “Serving Seen”
Join us at Northshore on Sundays at 8:45 am, 10:45 am or 5:45 pm. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to this message series to experience a Christmas they’ve never encountered before.