JESUS TO THE RESCUE
By Sammy Jordan Project Lead Hope for Every Home
Naomi Dawson IFES Europe and Passion for Evangelism
Christmas adverts compete to tell us what Christmas is really about; but as Christians, if we were asked, what would we say to our non-Christian friends and neighbours? Naomi Dawson encourages us to make the most of the mission opportunity of Christmas, by exploring the incarnation, Jesus coming to the rescue, making God known and accessible to us. She then suggests three ways we might be able to share this message with our non-Christian friends and neighbours and so connect missionally with people in our locality.
The nativity story is increasingly unknown and even when people know something of the story, they still have a bit of a leap to get to the why. In recent years I’ve taken to focussing on Emmanuel, God with us ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ John 1:14 The message of the incarnation, that God sent and sends himself. This is what Nay Dawson from IFES Europe and Passion for Evangelism also thinks Christmas is about:
“We’ve got two girls and have spent hours in soft play centres. I have never warmed to these places, and am very grateful that adults aren’t allowed to join in apart from the inevitable, ‘MUMMMMMM I’M STUCK’ moment which seems me put down my coffee and book, put on some socks and then squeeze, crawl and many other undignified things to rescue my child from being trapped.
Imagine if there was someone who could enter our world, hear our hearts cry for help and come and rescue us. This is the message of the incarnation.
Alistair McGrath says “The idea of the incarnation means God taking on flesh, humbling himself to enter into human history and take on by himself the entire experience of existence as a human being”. But how do we communicate this with our friends and our wider community, so that they hear the good news of the Christmas story afresh?
Sam Chan writes in his book that our western post Christian culture story line is one where Jesus equals a loss of freedom. He continues… “We once believed in God, fairies and unicorns. But as we became more and more enlightened, we became rational and stopped believing in the supernatural. If we can leave behind our past superstitious beliefs and realise, we are only physical atoms and molecules then we can be free to be who we really are. The only thing that is holding us back are those who still haven’t gotten with the programme. That is religious people who still believe in God and who continue to oppress us with their outdated traditions, beliefs and morals.”
How do we communicate the message of the incarnation into our post Christian context? A context where Jesus equals a loss of freedom? The nature and form of the incarnation has challenged me in my approach to telling the Christmas story in the last few years. At its very heart the incarnation shows us that Jesus offers access to God, both by making God known and making God available.
At Christmas time we have a massive opportunity to make God known and make God available both to our friends and wider community. I want to suggest three ways that work for me that might work for you too.
Three ways to share the incarnation story
Sing the story
Carol singing is still popular with many people. Whether that’s on the radio, at a Carol service or at the switching on of Christmas lights. The lyrics and music of many carol songs communicate the message of Christmas. This is my take on carolling this year…
Kingfisher Swimmers Festive Swim and Sing
I love swimming, I swam competitively as a child and have adored it since. Yet as an adult I’ve not found friends to swim with. When lockdown hit and all the pools closed, swimmers took to ingenious ways of keeping fit. For me I turned to our local river and put an advert out on social media for someone to join me. Nineteen months later, we have a vibrant river swimming group with over 60 regular swimmers. For the second year in a row, we’re hosting our annual Festive Swim and Sing. Everyone dresses up in fancy dress, brings flasks full of mulled wine and lots of cake, then we do our regular swim accompanied by musicians in a canoe singing carols!
What communities are you part of? Why not suggest a Christmas get together to sing carols? This could become an event that people look forward to each year.
Experience the story
Over the last year we’ve run seven trails for our local area. Over 200 families have been in the teams and thousands of people have used the trails. Last year we ran a Nativity 24-day reveal with a trail map, a team of 24 local families and a gift bag to give away. Families learnt more about the nativity story and experienced it as they walked around our area. We promoted this through local schools and social media. Trails have been a great way to bring people together and to have family friendly fun.
This Christmas we’re doing a Narnia trail to bring the beauty, wonder and awe of Narnia to our community. It’s a story that resonates with many of us as Christmas lights up the dark nights. We’ll be encouraging families to get a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, read it and join our trail. Each house in the trail will take a part of the story and decorate their gardens. Families will follow the trail map, and the final house has a gift bag for the children. We’ll be including chocolates and a postcard that conveys the hope of the original Christmas story.
Read more here about how to run a Nativity trail.
Gift the story
I write stories for families to read with their children which I put in gift bags full of seasonal treats to give out on trails, at Christmas markets, to friends and at events. My hope is that they spark an interest in the person of Jesus and leave people wanting more. I want to give people the opportunity to hear, with limited baggage, the good news of Jesus for themselves. Then they can make an educated and informed decision about what they believe. You don’t need to be able to write your own stories, Sammy has written a Christmas story for children, ‘Jesus to the Rescue’ which explains the need for the incarnation in the context of God’s big story. Find it in the HOPE shop www.hopetogether.org.uk/shop On the God’s Big Story resource page you’ll find the free animation, song, colouring sheets and toddler group resources to go with the book Hope Together : God's Big Story Resources For adults you might want to use the Christmas edition of Hope for All, a magazine designed to be easy for non-Christians to pick up and read as it contains stories from well known celebrities including Dan Walker of BBC Breakfast and Strictly Fame, Charlie Mackesy, author of ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse’ and footballer Marcus Rashford MBE. At £1 for bulk copies of Jesus to the Rescue and 10p for the magazine they are ideal to offer to local communities.
Stories can have a powerful impact, they can raise curiosity, pique interest and leave us wanting more. There is power in THE story and stories can make an impact over a long time. A friend of ours became a Christian at university. She heard about how Jesus gave his life for her and was deeply moved by his sacrifice. She had grown up in China and hadn’t had the opportunity to hear the Christian message. After uni, she came to live with us for a while and spotted the Narnia stories on our bookshelves. We discussed the connections between the Christian faith and the story, and her jaw dropped. She stopped and paused and said, “We watched these films in school in China, this film meant so much to me, it was the only film I’ve ever cried at, now I understand why”.
Take some time to remind yourself of the generosity of the gift of Jesus to us. Perhaps take some time to read one of the accounts of the birth of Jesus, watch an episode from The Chosen or listen to Hark the Herald Angels sing.
List the different communities that you are a part of.
Think about how you can communicate the story and meaning of the incarnation to your community and friends this Christmas.
Check out Jesus to the Rescue and the Hope for All magazine in the HOPE shop www.hopetogether.org.uk/shop
Read more about Naomi’s Christmas book Lucy and the bird which you'll find on Etsy under 'Houses of Light'
Watch an interview with Naomi on Talking Hope Sammy talks to Naomi Dawson about the mission opportunity that is Christmas. | Talking Hope | Ep 45 - YouTube