A Different Kind of Christmas
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
– Matthew 25: 34-40 (NRSV) 
We think life would be better if God would give us giant signs, flashing in the sky that says, “Go this way!” or “Do this!” Have you ever been there?
I have often thought that if I could just see Jesus my life would be better or different. I suppose I think it would be somehow easier if I could hug him, or he could hug me. Maybe I would do a better job of walking with him if I could look into his eyes and read the expressions on his face. Have you ever thought that?
But as I reflect on the Scriptures, I am reminded that the Israelites, who saw miraculous things happen right before their eyes, didn’t have an easy time of it. They struggled to follow God, even when he was clearly with them; pillars of fire, smoke, parting seas, not to mention bread from heaven, didn’t sway them.
The disciples were no different. Even when Peter saw the miracles, and even performed his own, he denied Jesus. I guess proximity isn’t the answer.
Walking with Jesus is demanding. Living as he calls requires all of who we are. Being his disciple means we die to ourselves. On a scale of difficulty, being a Christian the way Jesus calls is a ten-out-of-ten. There are no shortcuts.
So, what is the key to practicing our faith? How can we BE who Christ wants us to BE and Act as he would have us Act?
The reality is, we don’t need more information. We don’t need more studies. We don’t need more articles or devotions! What we need is obedience. We need to do what we already know to do! In obeying, we are transformed, and in transforming, we become something other than what we were.
Take the above passage for example. Jesus calls us to care for the hungry, thirsty, sick, and imprisoned. When we do this, we are caring for him. We need to be about doing those things and in doing them, we are transformed. We are changed by doing them; not by talking about them or studying them or praying about it. We are transformed by the Holy Spirit at work in us and through our obedience.
Forgive the analogy, but you don’t get fit, by talking about it. You don’t lose weight through studying how to lose weight. We can’t pray the weight out of our middle and suddenly expose your 6-pack abs; we must do something. In the doing, we are changed. It is no different spiritually.
So, what does all this have to do with Christmas you may be wondering?
God intends to use his people to reach the world. Many are sick, hungry, thirsty and downtrodden within your reach. They are looking for Jesus in a world of despair. They are praying to see the face of God, receive a miracle and gain some hope. If the message of Christmas doesn’t produce these things, what will?
Are you willing to be the answer to someone’s prayer this Christmas? Practicing your faith, in tangible ways with those who can’t pay you back, transforms you and them. It shouts to the hopeless, “YOU MATTER!” It also provides you the opportunity to see Jesus in the face of those you serve.
While doing so may not be the difference-maker in your faith, it is a tangible, meaningful way to obey what Jesus said to do and allows him to make you into His image this Christmas - making it different for everyone involved.
• What is one way you can make Christmas different this year?
• How can you care for those around you, especially the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty or imprisoned?
• What is one thing you know the Lord has been calling you to be obedient in,
but you haven’t done it? What will it take, for you to obey?
• How does obedience change you?
• How would you feel if Christmas happened for you this way? What if someone cared for you
in a way that shouted: “YOU MATTER!”