Isaac Carter shares how Christians can be great examples of the hope and love inherent within Christmas, as they give of their time and finances to the vulnerable in society
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Christmas 2013 is bearing down on us apace, and with it once more comes an amazing sense of hope. Amazing because, despite the fact that we now live in a largely agnostic society here in the United Kingdom, Christmas remains the one time of the year when the majority of our society is willing to be open to and acknowledge a Christian festival. Yes, I do know that with the festive season comes the exchanging of gifts; consumption of large amounts of food and drink, and endless partying, but it is still a time when society is relatively open to the message that we, as Christians, are preaching. And that raises a question: How should we use this opportunity to spread the Good News of the birth of Christ?
Well, the first thing to recognise is that maintaining an inward-looking approach of celebratory services behind our church walls, as we usually do, is not really going to help. Sadly, all the statistics show that fewer and fewer people attend church services, even at Christmas, so we have to take the Good News – and the hope it brings – out from the church buildings and into society; in other words, we have to ‘let our light shine, so men may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).
And, in this regard, actions speak louder than deeds, as James says, “Show me your works and I will see your faith” (James 2:18 paraphrased).
Society more than ever needs to see the resources of the Church being poured out into the needy. We live in a society which is increasingly fractured along economic lines, between the haves and the have nots.
With government cuts to benefits, some of the most vulnerable people in our society look forward to a desolate Christmas, being unemployed, homeless and destitute. It is these kinds of people to whom we, as Christians, are called to bring hope. For people who have little or nothing, their misery is compounded by
Christmas, when they have to watch the excessive consumption of others.
Similarly, for the elderly, or for those who live alone, their loneliness is compounded by everyone else sharing time with friends and families. It is our duty, as Christians, to highlight through words and deeds the simple truth that Christmas is a time of hope for all.
So, as ever, the question is: What, at this time, should be the response from us, as Christians, and from the Church, towards those less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be challenged to do more at Christmas? What if we did the following:
- Partnering – Organisations such as Shelter, Age Concern and Crisis at Christmas are always looking for other organisations or individuals to partner with in their Christmas outreach. Churches and their members should look at developing partnerships with such charities at Christmas.
- Financial Support – The vast majority of the income generated by churches goes towards their maintenance and upkeep throughout the year. At this special time of the year, it would be so symbolic if churches could look at making financial contributions to the elderly, the homeless, the unemployed in society, and within their own congregations; they should also encourage their more well-to-do members to do the same.
- Giving time – As important as money is time. What if, as Christians, we set aside our turkey, and gave up a couple of hours of our Christmas Day to go and serve at a soup kitchen or at a Christmas Day outreach; or, better still, what if our churches actually ran their own Christmas Day outreaches to the homeless and needy?
- Giving food – If you can’t actually give time during the festive season, how about making a donation of food or clothing to the many charities, like Shelter, who do great work, particularly at this time of the year?
- Giving of yourself – How about taking time out from your busy day to go and spend a couple of hours over the Christmas season with an elderly person, or inviting home someone from your church, whom you know has no friends or relatives, to celebrate Christmas Day with?
- Giving a gift – Instead of spending all your money on your friends and family, how about buying a gift for someone in your church whom you don’t know, just to make them feel special for that day?
This year, let’s restore the hope that the first Christmas brought to the world.
Merry Christmas and a happy and financially secure 2014.
Isaac Carter is the author of Go to the Ant, a simple but effective guide to money management – www.gototheant.co.uk