Choosing steps of faith that make the most of the season

BY: J.B. Tanwell

Choosing Steps of Faith That Make the Most of the Season

Perhaps it’s just me, but I spend large portions of my life feeling like there’s a giant timer counting down my days in the world. Does that make sense to you?

For the last five years that timer was the length of a working visa I had in the United States. But even aside from that, I often have this anxious sensation of time ticking away.

You only live once, I hear people say. Shh — do not tell me that.

Now, I believe Christmas is the season of joy, peace, family and friendship. But Christmas is also when my timer switches to double speed.

I basically want every Christmas to be two things: meaningful and memorable. That’s not too much to ask, is it? You probably want the same thing — and maybe something cool to unwrap on the day.

Well, I want to ask you to think about the steps of faith you hope to take this Christmas. What if those steps hold a key to making this Christmas more meaningful and memorable?

Giving others an experience of Jesus

This might sound crazy to you but I want you to think of yourself as a gift. You basically have two choices about what you’ll do with this gift:

  1. Give yourself away to others
  2. Keep yourself for yourself

I want to be bold here. I’m suggesting that the more you choose the first option, the more fully you’ll experience God yourself. And the more meaningful and memorable every Christmas will become.

Think about the Christmas story for a moment. Think about the unvarnished truth of the scene.

Jesus is eternally enjoying the safety and endless wonder of heaven. But his heart hurts the way yours hurts when people you love make choices you know will scar them.

So he sets aside comfort, security and his position in heaven with his Father. Then he enters a world that’s like a battlefield. Why? To meet people whose lives bear the wounds of that war. And many of these people treat him like the enemy. What was he thinking?

Well the Bible does not tell us everything that was going through his mind. But it does tell us he wanted people to experience him — in the flesh. See Hebrews 2:14–17 if you want to explore that more.

So what if you could offer someone else an experience of Jesus this Christmas? What would that look like?

Demonstrating the gospel to your neighbors at Christmas

I’m going to confess something to you now. As I prepared this post I felt convicted. I have not yet taken the steps of faith I want to with my own neighbors. We’re new to our street, but it will not get any easier if I wait.

But I have a friend, Diane. She always comes to mind when I think about the kind of neighbor I want to be. So I asked Diane what steps of faith she takes with her neighbors.

Take your time over these ideas if you want inspiration this Christmas. Here are seven fantastic ideas Diane gave me:

  1. We light an advent candle during our family meal in the period leading up to Christmas. As we do, we pray for God to renew our hearts. This serves as a visual reminder of Jesus — the light that overcomes the darkness. It also turns our thoughts to friends and family who do not know Jesus yet.
  2. A few years ago one of our neighbors lost her husband. My husband and I went out one evening and repaired damage to her driveway. We wanted her to know she is not alone.
  3. We made cranberry and orange loaves for all our neighbors. Then we delivered them with a card expressing our gratitude for each person. We included a written prayer that they would know God’s love, joy and peace.
  4. We’ve hosted Christmas carol gatherings for neighbors. These little steps to connect with our neighbors gave us opportunities to come alongside people facing difficult moments in their lives.
  5. We took a poinsettia to our neighbor who lost her husband earlier this year. She was about to face the holidays without him for the first time. We wanted her to know she was in our thoughts and prayers. We were able to listen to, encourage and pray with her — all because we took a poinsettia.
  6. We’ve included neighbors who have no family nearby in our Christmas Day celebrations. One of them, despite disliking anything resembling organized religion, has since asked several times to come to church with us.
  7. We’re also doing a reverse advent calendar. Normally you expect to take a treat from an advent calendar each day. Instead, we are putting an item into a box each day and giving it to a family in need the week before Christmas.

Thanks, Diane.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this list, remember, Diane does not do all these things every year. And neither will you or I.

But over the years she and her husband have built up a toolbox of steps of faith. They can choose the right one to take with a neighbor in a particular moment. I honestly think they’re the best neighbors anyone could wish for. Because living alongside them, and especially entering their home, feels like being closer to Jesus.

Move toward someone as your step of faith

At its simplest level, good neighboring at Christmas means moving toward someone else. Christmas is an amazing opportunity to spend meaningful time with your neighbors. Maybe you want to decorate your street together. Or you could go caroling and discuss the words you’re singing as you walk from door to door.

Whatever you choose to do, just do not let this season pass by without spending meaningful time with the people God has placed right beside you at home or in your place of work or study.

Or maybe you need to take a step of faith toward someone you’re tempted to withdraw from. That sounds like something Jesus would do, because that’s what Jesus did.

Make good use of your social media

You and I will probably post more pictures and moments from our lives during December than during any other month. But will we choose to take a step of faith in what we communicate?

I’m going to create a step of faith in MissionHub to post a verse of Scripture relating to the Christmas story this year. Then I’m going to create another to publicly express my thankfulness to God via social media on Christmas Day itself. Why? Because among my collection of Facebook friends and Twitter followers I have many people who fit two criteria:

  • They do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
  • I care about what they think of me.

These are my digital neighbors. I will wonder what they’re thinking of me or saying about me as they read my post. And that’s the point.

I do not have to preach to them in 280 characters or less. But I do have a space where they can notice what Christmas really means to someone who loves Jesus, or keep scrolling.

I need to trust God with my reputation. I need to hand over to him my attachment to what others think of me this Christmas. The people around me need to know what Christmas is really about. They need to know why it’s so much more amazing when you understand the true story.

So whatever you choose to do this Christmas, let me encourage you. Christmas is the perfect time to see what happens when you believe that every person matters, and every step of faith counts. MissionHub is here to help you.

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J.B. Tanwell lives in Europe where he confuses the locals with words he picked up while living in the southern states of the USA. He’s passionate about helping Christians talk honestly about what following Jesus involves.