Christmas Day: The Ultimate Invitation
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
—Luke 2:8-18 (Read Luke 2)
“Mr. Burens, how did you meet your wife?”
“Mr Burens, were you a good student in college?”
“Mr Burens, how did you decide what you were going to do with your life?”
“Hey Mr. Burens, don’t you run some kind of Christian organization? What’s that about?”
I was standing on the sidelines at my oldest daughter’s soccer practice, hanging out with a group of injured players, fielding questions from many of them on a variety of topics. After years of coaching a high-level high school boys’ soccer team in a neighboring district, I now volunteer my time helping out with high school girls. (To put this as graciously as I can, let’s just say I’ve come to notice that my daughter’s friends are a lot chattier than the guys I used to coach.)
That last question—the one about me running some kind of Christian organization—gave me pause. What is that about?
When I was a high school soccer player, I had no idea what the Lord had in store for my future. Candidly, I had no idea who this “Lord” was.
I went to church as a kid, but it was more of an obligation than a centering influence in my life. My priorities as a teenager were centered on a different kind of trinity: soccer, girls, and partying. School barely made the list, let alone a Christian faith.
And then, the summer before my senior year of high school, a soccer teammate accepted a challenge from his youth pastor that would change my life: Invite the kid on your team least likely to attend a church event to a missions week in inner-city Pittsburgh.
I was that “least likely” kid.
When I received the invitation to go on a service trip to The Pittsburgh Project, a ministry to low-income residents within the city, I agreed to go—mostly because I figured it would look good on college applications. I did want to go to college—so I could play college-level soccer, meet college girls, and go to college parties.
What I didn’t expect was that this invitation from a friend would lead me to a place where I would receive and respond to the ultimate invitation—to believe in and follow Jesus Christ.
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
My invitation to hear and believe this Good News did not come from an angel of the Lord.
Or maybe it did, if that angel showed up as a Lebanese man who was running the Project at the time. Either way, it was no less dramatic and life-changing.
The shepherds were doing the thing that they were called to do—living in the fields, tending their flocks at night. That’s where the God of the universe sent His messenger to deliver the Best News in the world, to the humblest of people.
That very same God sent a high school soccer player to invite me to join him on a service trip where this “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” was proclaimed again, in a way that that I could both hear and respond. In a way that made me want to invite others.
So to answer that question posed by my daughter’s soccer teammate—this is what that’s about.
In a world where good news seems to be in short supply, those of us who follow Jesus know and experience a hope that surpasses all understanding.
We have been given the Best News of all, that the Savior of the world has come so that we and all of creation can be in a right relationship with our Creator again. And we are called to share it—with everyone, but especially with those we consider the “least likely” to be open to it.
May we all experience this Good News in new, surprising, and life-giving ways this Christmas season and beyond.
God’s richest blessings to you and your family today as you celebrate the birth of Jesus.
—Vince Burens, CCO President & CEO