Tonight we sang Christmas carols to our neighbors. This is an annual event. Something I look forward to every year. It got me thinking again of how Christmas is a prime time for ministry. When are people this open to hearing the gospel? After all, that is what we sing to them through the Christmas carols. Of course not everyone will open their doors to receive the Good News, but many do, and with gratitude. Christmas caroling is a great way to connect with your neighbors and sing the gospel. And get the Christmas story into your heart and mind. I encourage you to try it in your own neighborhood. Gather a few neighbors or friends, say a prayer, bundle up and head out. Then come back for a cup of hot chocolate and debrief. I can say with experience that I have always felt the joy of the Lord when I reach out to my neighbors in this way. In John 1 we read that Jesus became human and made his home among the people. Now we are called to do the same. Christmas time is an ideal time to reach out.
As I reflect on the First Sunday of Advent that we just enjoyed at my local church, I’m thankful to be part of the Great Tradition. This is what Gerald R. McDermott calls the longstanding theological and liturgical tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ. (See “Guided by the Great Cloud” in Christianity Today [November 2014]). As we celebrated the First Sunday of Advent and thus the beginning of a new Christian Year, I recalled that I didn’t grow up with such traditions. As McDermott discusses, many contemporary evangelicals have shed the ancient traditions in favor of a “me and the Bible” only type of tradition. But in doing so, evangelicals give up the richness of a longstanding theological and liturgical tradition. Like celebrating the season of Advent, when we prepare for the First and Second Coming of the Lord through worship and moments of quiet reflection. Such ancient practices enrich our lives and help us grow spiritually. This is not to say that all contemporary practices are suspect. But we are encouraged to retain the ancient traditions as we develop new and meaningful traditions for today. What does the Bible say to people of the twenty-first century? To answer this question requires a fresh reading of Scripture rooted in the Great Tradition of biblical interpretation, being guided by such helps as the ancient creeds, Reformed confessions and modern theologians. I’m thankful for my evangelical heritage, with its focus on the gospel and personal holiness. And I’m thankful for the Great Tradition, which helps me understand the gospel more fully, and guides me as I seek to become more like Jesus. I thank God for the “great cloud of witnesses.”