Love, live and tell the gospel this Christmas
“I really enjoyed the carols,” a friend said to me after a service at my church last week. “How long ago did you start planning for Christmas?”
His question got me thinking about what it means to be prepared for when Christmas comes around each year. We started planning the logistics several months ago - ordering the tree and the tinsel, arranging the choir and the carols. But the more I think about it, the more I feel we have been preparing for much longer than that. The most important preparation is not for Christmas events themselves, but for the opportunities they present to make Jesus known to those around us.
The apostle Peter wrote about this in one of his letters in the Bible. He said, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). In encouraging us to be prepared, Peter shows us what it might look like to love, live and tell the good news of Jesus at Christmas time.
Loving the gospel
When someone tells me to be prepared for something, I want to take out a scheduler and open up a spreadsheet and start strategising. But the apostle Peter doesn’t start there. In fact, just before he writes, “Always be prepared,” he begins, “In your hearts revere Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15).
In other words, the best preparation for having Jesus on our lips is to have Jesus in our hearts. The celebration of Christmas always begins with enjoying the good news of God with us, coming in the person of Jesus to save us from our sins and to bring us to new life by his Spirit.
Living the gospel
Revering Christ as Lord will not just affect the attitudes our our hearts; it will transform our behaviour towards others. Peter encourages us to share the hope we have in Christ with those around us, making sure we commend Christ by our actions. He writes, “do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Not every gift is well received. You’ll know that heart-sinking moment when a child unwraps a present that isn’t exactly what they wished for and they discard it, disappointed. That can happen when we share our faith with others: some people won’t want to hear it. They might wish to malign us or speak badly of us, but if our motives are pure and our manner is gentle and respectful, we commend Christ by our conduct.
Telling the gospel
But of course, keeping a clear conscience does not mean keeping quiet. The events of Jesus’ birth is great news that we long to tell others; news of a saviour from sin and a certain hope for the future.
Being prepared for Christmas means being prepared to take all the opportunities this time of year presents to make Jesus known. It’s the conversations in the home or the workplace where we’re sharing the meaning of Christmas. It’s the carol services where the gospel is being preached in a talk from the Bible. And so often it is in response to hearing about Jesus in these ways that people start looking at the Bible more closely, through an invitation to Christianity Explored or Life Explored.
“Always being prepared” will mean doing the hard work of organising Christmas events. It will mean having a course arranged for January to follow up with those who have attended events, where we can tell the gospel. But it will start, as telling the gospel always does, with loving the gospel for ourselves and living the gospel out among those we know.
Ali Gledhill, 19/12/2019