– Pastor Brandon’s article from the December 2016 Newsletter
December is upon us and Christ-mas is just a few short weeks away. Amidst all the hustle and bustle of our traditions and celebrations, I can sometimes find myself a little cross. “There’s so much to do already, and now we’re going to add to the list just for fun?” I admit it: I can be a Scrooge at times if I’m not careful. For me, the solution to this is to slow down, enjoy each moment, and take time to reflect on the reason for all this hubbub. If not, I’ll quickly find myself replacing the joy of season with a big “bah, humbug.”
And so, I think back to words of the angel as he announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Good news? That’s exactly what I need. There is often so much hurt and brokenness in the world around me and, at times, in my own life as well. When I see all this, my heart cries out for relief and healing. I look around for help, and God steps in to save the day.
This is what Christmas is all about—a time to remember that God has come to save. Jesus Christ, the Lord, has come to redeem the world and restore our relationship with the God who created us. He has come “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). What a cause for great joy! God has come to set things right.
This is the good news for which I long, and as I rejoice in the restoration and life that God provides, I look to my neighbors who are also searching for help. How might I share the good news with them?
This brings me to Paul’s request for prayer in his letter to the church at Ephesus. He says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19).
Here, Paul is seeking help in sharing the gospel—that is, the good news. Look what’s on his heart as he asks for prayer. First, he asks that words may be given to him as he makes the good news known. Can you identify with his request? I often find myself in situations where I don’t know what to say. “How could I encourage?” “What would be helpful here?” “This is awkward.” “How should I answer that question?” These are all thoughts that have gone through my mind in various conversations. Sure there are plenty of times when the best thing to do is to be quiet and listen, but when it does come time to speak, Scripture says that I can rely on the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say. Do I seek his help in those moments, or do I muddle through on my own strength? Oh, that the Lord will fill us with his life-giving words!
Secondly, Paul asks for boldness. He says, “Pray that I may declare it fearlessly.” It’s easy to wonder what people might think of us or how we’ll be treated for sharing God’s love with them. If I speak up, what will the consequences be? Will people respond positively? Or will they reject what I’m saying? Regardless of the response, we pray for boldness to speak the truth in love.
Finally, note that Paul considers himself an ambassador of Christ and his message of good news. As followers of Jesus, we are representatives of God on earth. When we go about our day-to-day routines, what do people see in us? Do they see the love and compassion of Christ or do we just look like everybody else?
I encourage you to slow down and take time to reflect on the good news during this busy season. As I get ready for the holiday, I ask myself, “Am I simply following my traditions, or am I truly celebrating the good news of Jesus Christ and sharing it with others?” What about you?
– Pastor Brandon