RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–I am filled with anticipation as we celebrate the birth of Christ throughout the month of December. While not every entry in “Voices of the Faithful” -— a new devotional book written by Southern Baptist missionaries -— focuses on the advent of Christ, many of them will usher you around the globe for the holidays. I pray that you will gain insight into the tenderness and complexities of celebrating Christmas as an American missionary on foreign soil.
I can’t think of a better time of year for you and me, who do not share their missionary vocation, to be especially prayerful. Think particularly of the numbers of missionaries from any Christian denomination who may find themselves in a different land and culture for the first time during the holidays. Some of them are surrounded by entire communities that take no thought at all of the birth of Christ. Surely some of these dear servants share the emotions of the children of Israel in a strange kingdom so far from home. “How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4, NIV).
Then imagine the delight of Christ as He inclines His ear to hear “The First Noel” rise like Christmas incense from that community. Surely the sound is sweeter than all the angels He has “heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains.”
After centuries of silent nights bearing no praises, the sound barrier is broken by one obedient couple who bend their knees and with tears of loneliness streaming, sing, “Joy to the World!” Yes, the whole world. Christ, the unrealized desire of all nations!
Such hope is what sends a believer so far from the place they call home. They dare hope against hope that next year another set of knees may bow. Then another. And yet another. Slowly, ah, but surely! Has God not promised that people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” will one day stand “before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9, NIV)?
“How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”(Romans 10:14–15).
Why feet? Because they were willing to go. Nothing is more beautiful to God than feet callous from obedience.
A few thoughts to looking at Christmas from a Voices of the Faithful perspective:
Galatians 4:4-5 reads, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”
Give careful attention to the wording, “When the time had fully come.” On the Kingdom calendar of God, time does not go. It comes. Humans, in our egocentricity, perceive that time came when we were born and has been going ever since. Every now and then as I’m getting ready for my day, I glance in the mirror to brush the night out of my hair and nearly jump out of my skin with fright. “Who is that? How can I be this … this … old? Where did my drill team uniform go?” Ever feel like that? OK, forget the drill team uniform, but do you ever wonder where time is going?
While for us, time seems fleeting; for God, time is arriving. From His desire for the fellowship of nations, God slipped this thing we call “time” out of eternity and the first beginning was born. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Then the time came for God to breathe a soul into Adam. And the time came for Eve. And the time came for Abraham and the time came for a covenant in which “all peoples on earth” would be blessed through one man. And the time came for Egypt. And the time came for Exodus. And the time came for conquest. And the time came for judges. And kings. And captives.
The time came for silence. Then the time came for the loudest “Word” God would ever shout as the living Logos, Jesus Christ, was made flesh to dwell among us. For God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Time fully came. And time will fully come again.
This time, every knee will bow -— from every tongue, tribe and nation -— and every tongue will confess, “Jesus is Lord!” (Philippians 2:11).
Beloved, time is coming in your life. Not going. Time is coming more quickly than you know to see Christ face to face. As time finds you in this very spot, in this very season, what has the time come for you to do? No, we’re not all called to be missionaries, but we are indeed all called (Romans 8:30). Time has come, not for someone else, but for you.
What is God telling you deep in your heart that it is time for you to do? Like the missionaries with whom we’ve sojourned in Voices of the Faithful, you neither have it all together nor feel particularly suited, but would you be willing to be like them in another way? Would you agree to simply be obedient and let God do the rest? Find your place in this world and fulfill your calling with everything you’ve got. Your part awaits you.
Copies of “Voices of the Faithful” can be ordered via www.voicesofthefaithful.com.