Mission Harvest © 2011 William J. Brannan
Imagine your six year old daughter waking up on Christmas morning and eagerly running into the living room full of dreams and expectations only to be greeted with a small present wrapped in shipping paper. Already disheartened, she opens the gift and finds only one small piece of paper roughly six inches wide and three inches tall. She has no way of comprehending the significance of that piece of paper which is a check for one million dollars. It is only when she discovers what that present is worth that she realizes the incredible gift she was given that Christmas morning. The analogy seems unbelievable considering the unlikelihood of a six year old being given such a valuable gift, yet it doesn't even begin to express the value of God's gift to us at Christmas. I dare suggest that today, after roughly 2000 years, the value of Christmas is still barely understood, because if it was, the whole world would look radically different.
The birth of Jesus didn't seem like much in the eyes of the world, a baby lying in a manger because there was no room at the inn. For most, life went on as usual with no awareness of what had taken place; God became man in Jesus Christ. Yet it was an occasion announced to shepherds by angels, and revealed to wise men that traveled for years to bring gifts to this baby who was "born to be king of the Jews". There were some who saw this great event for what it was, who probably had great expectations of what would take place in the coming years, but instead everything went silent for roughly 30 years. Life went on pretty much as usual, with little awareness of what God was doing in their midst. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this man Jesus appears on the stage of history working great miracles and preaching the kingdom of God. This caused many people to become excited about what God was doing in the Earth, but suddenly seemed to be cut of about three years later when Jesus was crucified on the cross. Three days later everything changed when Jesus rose from the grave, yet just like at His birth, not many in the world were aware of what had just taken place.
All of this suddenly changed fifty days later when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. Now Jesus' disciples were empowered to take the gospel of the kingdom of God to the ends of the Earth with the power of God. Great miracles, signs and wonders accompanied the preaching of the gospel to demonstrate that through the cross the curse of sin and death was destroyed. The impact of the early church was so amazing that the world leaders of the time declared that the early apostles had turned the whole world upside down. This is the best way to describe the impact of the early church: they were able to destroy wickedness and corruption in the Earth by changing men and women one by one through the power of God revealed in the gospel. All of this began with that little baby born in a manger.
Now, nearly 2000 years later, the significance of Christmas seems like something which is both confined to the past and relegated to the future in the eyes of many people-seen simply as a historical event which caused humanity to be forgiven of their sins so that people can go to heaven when they die. It no longer has the transformational impact that it did in the early church, which understood the immediate nature of the gospel Christ preached. The message from the church today is not a clear proclamation that the kingdom of God is here now. We are like that six year old who received a check for a million dollars Christmas morning who has no awareness of value of what she had received. The gift of Christmas is the life of Christ for the world which has power today to change people's lives. It has power to destroy wickedness in the Earth by changing people's hearts.
The beauty of the gospel is that it is the fulfillment of God's promise to take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh. God promised to write His laws on our hearts so that we would actually walk in love. God's primary solution for us to deal with the social, moral and political problems in the world is to change people one by one through the power of the gospel. This is why Paul told us that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power of God for salvation, for by it the righteousness of God is manifested from faith to faith. This literally means that through the gospel the world is transformed as people are changed by God's grace. As this happens wickedness is destroyed in the Earth and society experiences liberty, blessing and prosperity. All of this is the true message of Christmas, and it is right to ask whether we believe in this message.
I am convinced that if the church once again caught a passion and a vision for the potential to bring positive change through the gospel to the nations, we could see nations transformed for good in a way that would surpass anything that has ever happened in history. The potential has always been there in Christ, but it is waiting for people to dare to believe and act on that faith.