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A Christmas Commission

By Larissa Swartz

“Don’t be afraid! Listen! I bring good news, news of great joy, news that will affect all people everywhere. Today, in the city of David, a Liberator has been born for you! He is the promised Anointed One, the Supreme Authority! You will know you have found Him when you see a baby, wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough.”
(Luke 2:10-12, The Voice)

This passage has become familiar to us over the years through readings, dramas, songs, and movies where this scene is reenacted. But taking a look at it again this year, I realized something: the angels never told the shepherds to actually DO anything. They come, they deliver their proclamation, sing ”Glory to God in the highest,” and leave; after which the shepherds themselves search out the baby Jesus and spread the news of his birth, becoming the first evangelists. From the natural overflow of their amazement and joy at the birth of Christ, they glorify God and proclaim his awesomeness to the world.

Baby Jesus, the literal “little bundle of joy” around which this time of year revolves and through which salvation comes to the entire world, is precisely that: a tremendous gift of love, joy, hope, and peace for all the people of the world. It’s easy to focus on the individual aspect of Christ’s coming and how he came for ME, but the communal and commissional aspect is equally important. Because it’s this same baby, who later as a grown man, commands this exact same thing of his followers, that they “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

It’s easy to allocate cross-cultural missions to those who are ”called” to go overseas and excuse ourselves from the difficulties and barriers that come with navigating cross-cultural communications and relationships. Anything new or different can be intimidating and scary to us. If you’ve traveled to or lived in another country for a period of time, you know the fear and loneliness that can come from adjusting to a new culture, language, food, and people. "You don’t have to travel to spread the Gospel to the nations. God is bringing the nations to us...and all we have to do is faithfully share the amazing inheritance of joy and hope that we have in Jesus, just like the shepherds did."The beautiful thing about living in the United States today is that you don’t have to travel to spread the Gospel to the nations. God is bringing the nations to us—to our schools, businesses, universities, and neighborhoods—and all we have to do is faithfully share the amazing inheritance of joy and hope that we have in Jesus, just like the shepherds did.

The nations are hungry for the Gospel and we should be as eager as the shepherds to share it with them. Here in the United States, opportunities abound to share Christ’s love and hope with fearful and lonely immigrants and internationals through hospitality and service. Something as simple as helping someone learn English, teaching someone how to drive or how to buy groceries, or providing second-hand clothes or furniture can open doors to building relationships of love and trust through which the Gospel can be shared. All that remains is for us to identify those opportunities and approach them with the same humility and love with which Christ came to earth. Some general rules when it comes to cross-cultural relationships are to always avoid assumptions and defensiveness, ask questions, and be prepared to apologize for any cultural blunders. Basically, be humble and loving and think before you act or speak.

Along with widows and orphans, immigrants are a third category of people that are especially near to God’s heart,and the theme of immigration is referenced throughout the Bible, particularly through the lives of well-known immigrants such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Daniel, and Paul, who had to leave their homelands for various reasons. However, we tend to forget that Jesus himself was a “foreigner” as he grew up in Egypt and then later moved back to Israel. Not only did he experience earthly immigration, but he experienced the ultimate immigration when he left his home and his Father in heaven to come to earth in human form. An InterVarsity article I read pointed out that, “No cultural divide is greater than that between heaven and earth” and that “no immigrant was more unwanted than God the Immigrant.” At Christmas, we come together to celebrate the most amazing story of all: that God himself voluntarily immigrated to earth to give his life as a ransom for ours in order that people from every nation, tribe and tongue, might know him and one day gather around his throne, praising him and saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne, and from the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10, NIV)

The shepherds weren’t any particularly special people with distinct talents, except for maybe tending sheep, if you consider that a talent. And when they heard God’s proclamation of salvation from the angels, they didn’t question it; they accepted it and ran to find Jesus. After encountering Jesus, they couldn’t help but tell everyone they met about him. Now those shepherds didn’t do any globe-trotting I’m sure, but I doubt they selectively shared the good news of Jesus’ birth. After all, the angels didn’t say that the good news of Jesus’ birth would bring joy for some people, but for all people. The shepherds had their time and now it’s ours. It’s our turn to “Go tell it on the mountains that Jesus Christ is born,” whether that’s in the deserts of the Middle East, in the cities of Asia, or here in the cornfields of Ohio.

Larissa Swartz, from London Christian Fellowship, will be graduating with her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and her TESOL Certificate from Wright State University in spring 2015. She has been actively involved in International Friendships Inc. since the formation of the Dayton branch in fall of 2012 as the student president, and now as an associate staff member. Besides studying languages and hanging out with international students, she enjoys making music on various instruments, eating ethnic foods (butter chicken is the best!), and relaxing with a good book.