Pastors’ Blog

Weekly reflections on religion and what's going on in the world.

Christmas Outreach

Rev. John Odhner

Yesterday I was moved by the awestruck faces of little children watching the Christmas story portrayed by marionettes. I have read stories to 2-year-olds many times, only to have them turn their attention elsewhere after three sentences. In the marionette service, though, the little children were especially rapt. There is a power in making the story visible. And part of what draws children to the Christmas story is that the Lord came in the context of a family—Mary, Joseph, and the Lord as a baby children can identify with.

One of the things I love about Christmas is taking time to focus on family and dear friends. For me the central fact of Christmas is that the infinite God of love and compassion took on a Human form in our world to be with people He created and loves.

There is another part of the Christmas story that goes beyond family and friends. When the shepherds had seen Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger, “they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17-18). And what was the saying the angels told? “Good news of great joy!” Christmas is not only a time for family but also a time to make the good news widely known to anyone who can hear, especially people who don’t feel loved by family, friends, and God.

Christmas is a good time for evangelization. In fact, “evangelize” is the Greek word for “tell the good news.” The word “angel” simply means “messenger,” and “ev-” or “eu-” means “good.” The angel literally said to the shepherds, “I am evangelizing (euangelizomai) to you great joy!”

I was at the Star of Wonder (where a hundred children and parents made Christmas crafts at the Cathedral) when someone walked in the door wanting to know about the New Church. I was able to tell a little about the deeper truths the Lord has opened up in His Word about Himself, while showing him the stories in the stained-glass windows. He left with a promise to continue our conversation at a later time. I predict that when this Christmas season is over, I will look back on those few minutes with an inquirer as one of the highlights of my Christmas season. I invite you to share the good news of the Lord’s coming with family and friends, and also take time to reach out to new people that you don’t know so well yet. Gaining a new friend is a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas.