The Christmas season is upon us, and with it come all sorts of challenges and opportunities. Depending upon how one looks at it, the money we spend on gifts can be either a challenge, an opportunity, or both.
Many are challenged with resource demands such as money, as well the time demands we experience this time of year. Many also struggle emotionally during the holidays, especially if they have experienced loss, such as lost loved ones, relationships, or the loss of employment.
We do have some pretty special opportunities during the Christmas season, the chief of which is the opportunity to engage our culture in the name of Christ, giving us as Christians a way to impact people in our community for the Kingdom.
We live in a nation where authentic followers of Christ seem to have become the minority. We are an “on-the-go” culture that is just busy, busy, busy. During the Christmas season, however, Americans tend to be a little more jovial and a little more receptive to the Gospel message.
We have opportunities to give, to minister and to share not only our resources with those in need, but the Gospel as well. The culture might have changed over the years, but people really have not changed, and certainly the Gospel of Christ has not changed.
Have you noticed that people are more open to conversation at Christmastime? It is easier to talk with people about various topics this time of year than any other. Now not everyone is into talking to strangers, although I think it is quite fun. But people with whom we work and go to school, as well as our neighbors, are more open to visiting with us.
In his article “8 Ways To Engage The Culture Around You,” Rick Warren recommends simply starting conversations with people with whom you come in contact. This time of year, more than any other, provides us with opportunities (or an excuse if you will) to talk to people. We can discuss the Christmas season, as well as the things that accompany it, such as gifts people are buying, or clothing people are wearing, or the traditions that accompany Christmas.
Once we have begun a conversation with someone with Christmas as the starter topic, it isn’t difficult to make the transition into discussing the Christmas holiday itself. Once this topic is broached, namely celebrating the birth of Christ, it is easy to share the Gospel.
For example, a conversation could begin with a simple question such as, “I like that hoverboard. Where did you get it?” It might continue with, “How is your family celebrating Christmas? Do you all get together on Christmas Day?” And then something like, “I love Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior and all.” And then at some point you have an opportunity to ask a gospel question such as, “Are you a Christian?” Or “Have you ever given your life to Christ?” Or something like that.
Christmas traditions give us unique opportunities to share the Gospel as well. Christmas trees, lights, gift-giving, even Santa Claus, have their origins in Christian history and traditions. For instance, as Hank Hanegraaff points out, the Christmas tree tradition has developed from two German traditions centuries ago that have been combined over the years. One tradition was the paradise tree upon which people hung apples as a reminder of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, which we read about in Genesis. The other is the triangular shelf which was used to hold Christmas ornaments and figurines. The triangular shape symbolized the Holy Trinity.
Today, our Christmas tree tradition of the evergreen tree symbolizes the eternal life we have through Christ, the triangular shape points to the Trinity, and the lights on the tree represent the Light of the World, both Christ and His followers.
As we celebrate traditions such as erecting and decorating our Christmas Trees, we have opportunities to explain why we engage in these traditions and what these traditions signify. When our children, or even coworkers, ask why we put up a tree in the home and decorate it, only to take it down in a month or so, we can tell them how we are celebrating Jesus through the tradition.
When we give gifts, we can explain how gift-giving is a way of celebrating the Ultimate Gift which God gave to His creation, namely Jesus, to accomplish our reconciliation and salvation. We can also tell the story of how the Magi travelled across the Middle East to worship Jesus the King following His birth, and gave Him gifts, paying homage to the King who had been prophesied long before (Matthew 2).
During the Christmas season we also have opportunities to give and minister in the name of Christ to those in need. Even in such a wonderful and prosperous nation as ours, we have so many who have experienced financial hardship due to loss of employment or who have personal loss and suffering due to various life situations. Christians, through their small groups or individually, can perform acts of service or give needed items or money to help meet needs in their communities. As Jesus stated in Matthew 25, when we minister to those in need in His name, we are serving our Master.
Let us who have been rescued by God the Son in turn take part in the work of our Savior, making the most of every opportunity given to us by our Lord to minister to those around us who are lost in their sins. Let us, as the apostle Paul instructs, live wisely and make the best use we can of the time given to us, for the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16).
Let us try not to be so caught up in the busyness of the holiday season that we become distracted into losing sight of the purpose of the season, to know Christ and to make Him known. For the greatest gift we can give this Christmas is the gift of eternal life, which only comes through Christ: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
How wonderful that Jesus allows us to be part of building His kingdom.
 Rick Warren, “8 Ways to Engage The Culture Around You,” accessed December 1, 2016, http://pastors.com/8-ways-to-engage-the-culture-around-you/#
 Hank Hanegraaff, The Heart Of Christmas: A Devotional For The Season, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc., 1984), 82-83.