Don’t leave Jesus in the manger

I love Christmas. It’s an amazing time of fun, celebration, food and joy. More than anything else it’s the moment when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and it’s been amazing these last few weeks to remember the Saviour of the world being born in Bethlehem.

What a moment, what a sacrifice; the hinge of history lies there in a cattle shed.

Those around us seem so much more interested to hear about Jesus at Christmas, making it an incredible opportunity to share the Gospel in a way that seems more natural than the rest of the year. It’s a season when most people are used to hearing the story of the first Christmas, so us retelling it seems normal and even expected, yet it remains utterly breathtaking; the invisible God becomes visible in Jesus and this changes everything. What a moment, what a sacrifice; the hinge of history lies there in a cattle shed. Theologian Alec Motyer puts it this way, “lo within the manger lies He who built the starry skies.”

The story is awe-inspiring, but we mustn’t fall into the trap of leaving Jesus as a baby. To understand the significance of his birth, you must understand his life, and move from the cradle to the cross, to the resurrection, and to the life-changing significance that this holds for every single person alive today. As this season of Advent rapidly draws to a close, all of this leaves me asking, what happens next?

To understand the significance of his birth, you must understand his life, and move from the cradle to the cross, to the resurrection...

Already the Christmas tunes in the shops seem less relevant, the trees will be down before we know it, and our houses will once more be decorated a little more conventionally.

I am passionate that we don’t miss out on the opportunities that began with our Christmas evangelistic endeavours. That friend who came to carols by candlelight might come on any given Sunday, that work colleague who was interested last week may well still be interested in January, and you don’t have to only bless your neighbours at Christmas! The momentum built up in our outreach throughout Advent could potentially now flow into a new year. Why shouldn’t 2018 be the year in which we see a major growth in our UK mission activity and fruitfulness?

We have just celebrated the assurance that this baby to be born would be ‘Immanuel’ meaning ‘God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23), one of the most common promises in scripture. This is not a prayer, it’s a statement. It’s so ultimate and exclusive. God has got through to us. Jesus is the way and his message needs to be shared with all.

This guarantee of God’s abiding presence is not restricted to Christmas. Indeed, the Gospel of Matthew, that begins with the promise of the coming Immanuel, closes in chapter 28 with the Great Commission’s assurance that he is with them still, and will be until the end of time. Therefore, as we step away from Christmas he remains with us, and he’s by our side as we seek to witness to those around us.

We want to see the nation changed, so perhaps this could be the year when we don’t stop reaching people with the Gospel just because Christmas is over...

As we head into 2018, what kind of Christians do we want to be here in the UK? Let’s set out to be faithful to God throughout our lives, carrying a clear Gospel message, serving others beyond what seems reasonable, and taking calculated risks for Jesus. We want to see the nation changed, so perhaps this could be the year when we don’t stop reaching people with the Gospel just because Christmas is over, but instead remain on the front foot, sharing Jesus with our hands, feet and mouths, and doing all we can to reach others.

Let’s not leave Jesus in the manger; let’s share him with everyone we can, wherever, whenever and whatever the situation. Happy New Year!