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FIRST-PERSON: Making evangelism good news again

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Christmas is the ultimate Good News. Into this world of darkness light has come. And our call to evangelism means we get to be light-bearers, bringing the greatest joy to those who otherwise will miss Christmas and never know it. What a privilege!

I want you to think with me for a moment. Consider how many of the most wonderful things in your life are only in your life because of Christ.

In my own life, I realize my wonderful wife would not have married me had I not known Christ. I would not have my children. I never would have known the joys of leading five wonderful churches. I would have missed hundreds of powerful times of prayer with trusted friends. I would not have seen God move on the other side of the world on mission trips where no one had ever heard Christ’s name. I would not have known His comfort when I wept, His laughter over me when I rejoiced, His direction when I was wandering, His protection when I was in danger. I would not have the wonderful opportunity of the position I hold now, helping Southern Baptists make evangelism good news again.

I cannot even imagine my life had I missed all that -– and all the joy of life and heaven to come. But the fact is that so many people all around us are missing all that could be in their life -– and it is not clear if we care. How can we say we care if we don’t love them enough to share with them the gift that is waiting for them to open?

Many of my best life memories are tied to Christmas. Christmas of 1980 was our first Christmas as a married couple. We spent it with my family in Ohio. One night we went to a party at the church where I had served on staff for a summer, First Baptist Church in Lancaster, Ohio. While we were at the church, a blizzard hit. By the time we got back to my parents’ house, the snow was deep and we could not get the car up the driveway. We finally gave up, parked the car and tried to walk up the hill to the house. But since we had on dress shoes, we kept slipping and falling down. Finally, I told Donna I would carry her up. How romantic. Well, it was until I fell backward at the top of the hill, tossed her over my shoulder and both of us slid to the bottom. We lay on the ground, covered in snow, laughing hysterically. Finally, we crawled up the hill! I’m sure all the neighbors thought the Baptist preacher must have had too much to drink. After we dried off, we sat by the fire getting warm and held each other while we watched the beautiful lights of the Christmas tree.

Even now, looking back on it, I am overwhelmed with the wonder that life is when we know Christ. And I never want to lose my passion to see everyone know this life -– this Christmas gift. There are a world of Christmas memories waiting to be made for everyone you know who has not yet met Christ. Can you imagine what it would mean if you were the one to help them make that first memory?

It has been an honor to serve you this year, Southern Baptists. I can’t wait for all that is ahead in the New Year. But first, it’s time to celebrate. It’s Christmas! The angels remind us again that Jesus came to bring us good tidings of great joy. Let’s spread it around. Let’s be the ones everyone is glad to see coming. Merry Christmas to you all. I’ll be back with these columns in 2006 and we’ll keep making evangelism good news again.
John Avant is vice president for evangelization at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

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  • John Avant