The Nativity story in the accounts of Luke 2:8-20 not only reminded me of my younger days, but it posed a challenge too. Furthermore, it connected me with my “Come and See Tour Experience” to Israel-Palestine.
As part of the tour we were scheduled to experience life in the Middle East at one of the homes in that location. My host family not only lived in the Shepherd’s fields, but they were also descendants of the shepherds that witnessed the heavenly choir singing praises to the new born King.
From a Church Planter’s perspective, one thing stood with me that day. It was something that a brother from Beit Sahour shared. He said: “I am aware of the mission entrusted to my ancestors and to me which is to share the good news of salvation for all the people. Jesus is Savior and Lord.” My job is to share God’s shalom which includes justice for all people, he added.
From his house up on the hill, I was able to see the Nativity Church. By the way, the “Go, tell it on the mountain” song came to my mind that day.
As a young lad, my parents allowed me to miss some holidays and religious celebrations except ‘Noche Buena’ (Christmas Eve). If for some reason I was not present that day, it was expected of me to make it back home one way or another.
I grew up holding the Advent and Lent seasons as sacred celebrations. During these seasons, prayers of confession, repentance and gratitude were expected from each one of us. Whether me and my siblings did it or not, that’s another story.
During Advent, occasional prayers were recited, but on Christmas Eve at 12 midnight, my whole family was expected to pause from any activity and to gather around the nativity scene settled by the Christmas tree. My father then would pray a prayer of blessing. On a few occasions I spotted him weeping for our family.
Most times he or my mom would finish saying: now go and celebrate that ‘baby Jesus’ our King and Savior is born. For us the phrase meant “open your Christmas presents, kids.”
Somehow, I think the Spirit is moving the Church back into the community. Back into the streets, market places, parks, and laundromats of our neighborhoods. In other words, as church we are being challenged to notice and live among the ordinary. Perhaps the Latin phrase “Missio Dei” is the best way to explain the challenge at hand.
More than ever before, it seems to me that church is confronted with an old reality, becoming local mission agencies. The 21st century church faces another test: finding out what God is about in the world.
Alan J. Roxburgh asserts that “the biblical narrative revolves around God’s mission in, though, and for the sake of the world.” As one reads the gospels, one discovers that the gospel story is about God and his salvific grace for all people. The Gospel does not demonstrate God serving our whims and desires or meeting our needs. Instead, it poses a challenge, to follow in the footsteps of Christ. The commission at hand is to share God’s story.
Just like the shepherds in the field, we are asked to listen to sounds of the Missio Dei in our community. Besides, the commission at hand is to share the true Nativity story, God’s story.