20 Dec This Christmas | Remembering to live as exiles
We don’t belong here. This idea is a difficult one for us to remember. Our lives feel normal, busy, and often, harried. Our homes provide us with a safe haven in the evenings; we control and protect the comfort we find there. We have an agenda, and we are determined to stick to it.
Scripture, however, is clear on this idea of exile. From Old Testament to New, the people of God are called to be holy and set apart. The literal exile of the Israelite people comes with admonitions to maintain their distinctive customs, laws, and methods of worship. And the Apostles speak over and over again about the church as a unified, but displaced, community. (Philippians 3:20)
And yet, our hope and our identity are so easily wrapped up in the here and now. It’s something that happens often without our notice. We live good, moral lives; we serve at church, and tithe our paychecks. We are convinced that we are living with Kingdom focus.
Our hope and our identity are so easily wrapped up in the here and now.
But our responses to difficulty reveal the real treasures of our hearts. Whether the simple frustrations of a bad day or the monumental loss of a tragedy, our off-the-cuff, immediate reactions to suffering often show us that we aren’t actually living as exiles or hoping in a future eternity. When we experience the bad instead of the good- the difficult instead of the easy- it becomes clear that we expect this life to be good. We are expecting to be at home somewhere we do not belong. We are longing for the now and forgetting the not yet.
This struggle to be a distinctive, displaced people of God is not a new or recent development. The Israelites had an especially hard time remembering to live differently than their neighbors. And so, God implemented milestones in the form of festivals and holidays that let His people stop to remember and celebrate Him and His work on their behalf. (Leviticus 23)
We are expecting to be at home somewhere we do not belong. We are longing for the now and forgetting the not yet.
Since our own hearts fall so easily for the things of this world, we, too, must be proactive and ask ourselves, “How should I live as an exile in this particular situation?” Living with our heart and mind focused on forever will impact how we live now; we will have lives filled with distinctive markers that point to Christ.
So what about this Christmas season? How should we be living as exiles during the biggest holiday celebration of the year? All too often, our Christmas celebrations look identical to those of unbelievers. But what if Christmas is a time for us to sacrifice so that others can celebrate? This is, after all, the very thing that Christ did for us.
Instead of joining in with all the hustle and bustle of the world, let’s get creative as we consider ways to celebrate Christ by mirroring His sacrificial love.
Justice is the making right of a wrong situation. By addressing the suffering and brokenness of systems and situations, we demonstrate the rightness that God originally intended for this world. From hunger and poverty to preventable diseases and unemployment, we are called to make right that which is wrong.
Living as an exile means looking beyond our own situation or plans for the holiday and considering the needs and potentially difficult circumstances of others.
- Staying in town for the holidays? Consider being an alternative caregiver for a foster family who travels to see family across state lines.
- Instead of purchasing unneeded gifts, you can make a donation to The Goat Project and empower a family in Kenya this Christmas. Holiday giving cards are available so that you can still put something under the tree.
- Many large companies can be linked to slavery at some point in production. Choose to purchase gifts that are certified slavery-free. Check out options here.
- Reach out to any of the local organizations on our website to discover the needs of the vulnerable and underserved this season.
Hospitality is the restoration of broken relationships. By loving, pursuing, and welcoming those around us (neighbors, family, coworkers), we are representing the work Christ has done for us. We have been brought into the family of God, therefore we bring others into our lives and our home.
- Think about those in your neighborhood or your office who you know won’t have anyone to spend Christmas with. Invite them to share the day with you and your family.
- Visit your neighbors that are home-bound on Christmas and bring them a meal or some holiday decorations. Even stopping by for 30 minutes to an hour can bring joy to someone who spends their days alone.
- Consider starting a new family tradition that’s welcoming to non-family members like a Christmas Eve game night.
- Paint ornaments or bake cookies with your children and take them door-to-door to wish your neighbors a merry Christmas.
Proclamation speaking the truth of the Gospel in everyday life. If what we believe is true, it shapes every aspect of our lives. As we pursue relationships with non-believers, we communicate the truths of the Bible and how they impact our daily lives. We clearly speak the truth of who God is and of Christ’s work on the cross because these truths have power to change lives.
- Ask your co-workers about their Christmas traditions. Us this opportunity to share the Good News to which Christmas points.
- Choose a co-worker you are close with and write them a note encouraging them and pointing them to the meaning of Christmas.
What will you do differently this Christmas week?
- Holiday Lessons…from Leviticus? | The Verge Network
- Christmas at the Piper House | John Piper
- 4 Ways to serve this christmas season that helps all year long | The Verge Network