Sunday, December 21, 2008

Culture War: Ministry

If you've been out shopping this weekend, you've undoubtedly seen the bell-ringers for the Salvation Army who've become as much a part of the Christmas atmosphere as Courier and Ives and Santa Claus. There was a big flap a couple of years ago when some major retailers stopped allowing the bell-ringers to collect in front of their doors. The ban was in the name of political correctness and the infamous 'war on Christmas'. It just isn't the same for the bell-ringers to wish you happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas. But when all the fuss was going on, few made an issue of the little acknowledged, and seemingly little known, fact that the Salvation Army is more than a philanthropic organization, it's a church.

And that fact makes those kettles even more important in 'keeping the Christ in Christmas'. Those anonymous bell-ringers shine Christ's light brighter than I ever could. That's because as a church, their ministry extends beyond Christmas. Watch the second video- the 1901 San Francisco Earthquake, Third World disaster relief, soup kitchens- these have nothing to do with Christmas the holiday, but have everything to do with spirit of Christmas. What about your own personal ministry? Opportunities abound for charity during the holiday season- Toys for Tots, Angel Trees, Adopt-a-family, hosting Christmas dinners for the needy, serving at soup kitchens- in fact it's well known that charitable giving and volunteerism increases during the holidays. But what about the rest of the year? The needy that you feed this week will still be needy six months from now. But does your personal ministry reach out then as much as now?

Charity always, ministry to all. That is the spirit of Christmas, and is not limited by a calendar. Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive with no mention of when or how. If you're giving to the needy this Christmas, or serving in some way, use the opportunity to turn it into something consistent that continues throughout the year.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' (Acts 20:35)

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