As I write this, we are just a few days way from celebrating Christmas. As we approach this big weekend, there probably is a lot happening in the life of your church. On top of Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, you probably are also preparing either to have family come visit or you’re planning to hit the road sometime next week to go see them.
If you’re leading a church replant or revitalization, the year’s last couple of weeks may bring a weird mix of emotions. Perhaps you’re celebrating some big wins over the last year: new believers, increased baptisms and a more stable budget. Or maybe you’re finishing this year feeling beat up with unmet expectations and fewer people in your church than you had at the beginning of the year. Maybe you’re somewhere in between.
Regardless of whether you’re finishing the year on a high, at a depressing low, or somewhere in between, the story of Christmas provides the hope we all desperately need.
Here we find real hope.
When we read the Christmas story, we’re reminded of God’s deep love and provision for His people. Certainly, God Almighty was not surprised when Joseph and Mary had to make the arduous journey across the desert to Bethlehem. He was not shocked when they were told there was no room for them in the inn. This first Christmas certainly didn’t go the way that Joseph and Mary had planned it out, but God knew exactly what was going on. And He was at work in it all.
If you follow the story, you know things got worse before they got better. Herod was enraged about this promised King, so he sets out to kill every baby boy in the area around Bethlehem. Even in that, God protected Jesus and His family. Even in the middle of this unbelievable violence, God was at work.
Here’s the point. Maybe, like Joseph and Mary you’re experiencing one frustration after another. Maybe you’re wondering if God even knows where you are, and if He’s able to work in your church. Take heart. He sees and He knows. And, even in the worst of circumstances, God is at work. He has a plan.
Now, of course none of us is promised that our church will grow. We’re not promised that money won’t be tight and people won’t be mean. Those often are spiritual realities of the work of ministry, particularly the work of revitalization. (And, if you go back and read the New Testament, they’re realities churches have experienced since the beginning.)
But the hope of Christmas is even better than a simple promise of prosperity! The hope of Christmas is the promise that, no matter what we may face, God is with us. He’s promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
Throughout the pages of the New Testament, we see that, throughout all the victories and hardships followers of Christ walked through, God Himself walked alongside them.
So, pastors and church leaders, as you celebrate Christmas this weekend, as you finish out this year and look to the next, rejoice and relax in this hope: God is with you. In every decision, every hospital visit, every phone call with an angry deacon and every church business meeting (good and bad), God is with you. And He’s working for His glory!
Don’t lose sight of that glorious reality.
Published December 21, 2023