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November 18, 2021

Holidays and Evangelism

Article by: Scott Hand

Local Disciple-Making Pastor

Article by: Scott Hand

Local Disciple-Making Pastor

Holiday celebrations are largely cultural. Every culture celebrates different holidays for different reasons, and most of them are not universal. Take Halloween for example. My family and I lived overseas for nearly 10 years and we can’t recall anyone we met who knew what Halloween was, let alone sent their kids out trick or treating or decorated their houses with ghosts and spider webs. To much of the outside world, Halloween is an unknown and strange holiday. But it’s not alone, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, and even Thanksgiving to some degree, are uniquely American holidays. And of course it goes both ways. Most Americans have never heard of Tomb Sweeping Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, or the Dragon Boat Races, all of which are very popular Chinese holidays. What’s my point? Holidays are cultural, and they all started in a particular place, by a particular people, for a particular reason. And because of that, holidays are a unique time of celebration and explanation. 

The lone exception to the list above of relatively unknown holidays is Christmas. Christmas is nearly a worldwide holiday. Most folks, in most cultures, grow up singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies and pageants, and reading Christmas books. While it may take on different personalities, children worldwide anticipate the arrival of gifts under their tree by a jolly fat man known as Santa Claus (or as they refer to him in China, “the Christmas Old Man”). But Christmas has become so secularized in the world that most folks probably have either lost sight of at best, or never knew at worst, the real meaning of Christmas. So even though Christmas is well-known, it is vastly misunderstood and therefore, still requires explanation. 

This explanation is where we, as followers of Jesus, need to be bold. We have an opportunity every holiday season to speak of Jesus. Many holidays have a religious background. Thanksgiving – the pilgrims fled England in search of religious freedom; St. Patrick’s Day – St. Patrick himself was an Irish missionary in the 5th century; Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ; Easter – the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even the holidays that don’t have an overt religious background can still be contextualized rather easily to speak of the things of the Lord. Valentine’s Day – “We love because he first loved us” – (1 John 4:19); Halloween – speaking to others about the realities of life and death; Independence Day – being set free from the bondage of sin and made alive to Christ (Rom. 6). 

The Christmas season however, presents a unique time for believers. It’s a great time to evangelize. The Bible is clear that the Christmas story is one that was meant to be told. 

In the gospel of Luke chapter 2 verses 8-10 Luke tells us that, “In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them: “ Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The sentence, “I bring you good news” is actually only one word in the Greek, and it’s the word from which we get “evangelism”: evangelizomai. It literally means, “to announce glad tidings” or “to proclaim good news.” In fact, you could translate verse 10 as, “I evangelize you of great joy.” 

Christmas was, first and foremost, a missional event. We should be telling the Christmas story, not as a comfortable, lazy boy, cup-of-coffee, individual, introspective experience, but rather, as the epicenter of human history. We are not simply to sit alone by the fireplace and ponder Jesus’s birth. We are to go and herald the astonishing truth that God sent his son to save us from our sins (Matt 1:21). The incarnation is not just a small story that plays a part in the greater story of Scripture, it’s the story that is (or should be) one of our greatest evangelistic tools.

Scott Hand

Scott Hand

Local Disciple-Making Pastor