I have mentioned on more than a few occasions how important it was to hear Marshall Shelley, editor of Leadership Journal, indicate once that a chief responsibility of pastoral ministry is to define realities. Somewhere else I heard a prominent church leader say “facts are your friends.” This all reminds me of the words of John Adams: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
In this light, I introduce a series based on the Gospel of Luke entitled “Tell Me the Story.” In the prelude of Luke’s gospel (1:1-4), he indicates that he intends to write an “orderly account” so that the reader may have “certainty regarding the things you have been taught.” I especially want to address the narratives about Jesus’ birth, so that we may have a firm grasp on what happened on that first Christmas. This will be important for many reasons:
First, there are many legends that have sprung up around Christmas in our day and age. These include Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, people living in the North Pole, etc. At best these legends serve to cloud the real meaning of Christmas, and at worst they obscure its meaning altogether.
Second, there are real issues and challenges that we face in our world today. We have turmoil, hurts, difficulties in relationships and losses that are real. In addition to this, we have neighbors and friends who keep their distance from God. These friends are marked by resistance to the things of God, including the Bible and the gathering of God’s people. We understand, because at one time we too kept our distance from God. But life is short, and it is too short to live without reconciliation toward God. Our harvest field is needy for what only God can give.
Third, Jesus Christ is God’s provision for this human dilemma. Our Christian profession is that he is “Savior and Lord,” which means he is our rescue and our master. His birth and his death mark him off as God’s only-begotten Son, born of a virgin, raised bodily from the dead, able to transform human lives today. He is not merely our Savior but the Savior of the world.
Friends, we are the church of Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to “make disciples of all nations.” We are on mission for God in our neighborhood and world. We can tell the story of what God has done through Jesus in our lives. We can tell this story to our children, our friends, our co-workers, our fellow-students, our acquaintances and even our critics.
For some years I have been on a workout program to maintain my weight loss and stay fit and trim. I have made many friends at this workout location, including a man who has gone through a very difficult illness. I have had an opportunity to pray for this person, to engage in conversation, to give a gift and to make a friend. Just recently I heard of his college-aged daughter becoming interested in Christianity. He is interested in hearing about what Christianity means to me and what a relationship with Jesus is like. I am “telling the story” from my own life and letting God do the rest. You can, too.