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FIRST-PERSON: Christmas opportunities

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JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) – It is nice once again to be approaching Christmas. The weather is cooler, college students are taking final exams and other schools are winding down. There is something especially exciting about Christmastime!

As we prepare to gather with friends and family, to exchange gifts, and to ponder anew the glory of the Incarnation, it is also helpful to realize this is a time ripe with Gospel opportunities that we ought not miss. I’d like to mention three.

First, this season is a fruitful time for evangelistic opportunities. Even in our increasingly secular environment, basic Gospel truths will be broadcast in retail stores, restaurants and in almost every public space. In addition, people are often hearing about the birth of Jesus in their homes, so talk of Jesus is in the air. Our situation is almost like that of Philip when he heard the Ethiopian eunuch reading Isaiah (Acts 8). We need to be ready to ask people if they understand what they are hearing. You might ask servers if they have ever trusted in this Jesus, just mentioned on the radio, for the forgiveness of their sins. At a Christmas party you might be able to start a basic spiritual conversation with a coworker. Or, this might be a good opportunity to invite a lost friend or neighbor to church or to a Christmas Eve service.

Second, one of the best ways to be involved in international missions this time of the year is to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. This offering is an amazing opportunity to support missions, yet an increasing number of people in our churches are unaware of it. Given that 100 percent of the gifts go directly to the mission field and that 59 percent of the work of the International Mission Board is funded by this offering, it is one of the most significant mission opportunities anyone could have. I remember as a teenager hearing a speaker challenge us to give as much to the LMCO as we spent on the most expensive gift we purchased. There is no law guiding our giving here, but I have found this a helpful idea to guide my priorities in spending/giving in this season.

Third, this is a key time to pray for our missionaries. As we enjoy gathering with our family, remember that most missionary families have foregone this privilege for the sake of taking the Gospel to the nations. The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for missionaries, especially if life or ministry is difficult at the moment. It is a great tradition to take some of your family time to pray for our brothers and sisters. Pray the Lord might fill the lack they might feel by being away. Pray these missionaries might be able to take advantage of Gospel opportunities given to them as people around them either celebrate Christmas or are aware that Westerners do. If your church does not have a connection with a specific IMB missionary, you can contact [email protected] to make a connection. The IMB is working to establish connections between every Southern Baptist church and an IMB missionary.

Making the most of these opportunities is a great way to make the most of our Christmas celebrations.

Ray Van Neste is dean of the School of Theology & Missions and professor of biblical studies at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

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  • Ray Van Neste