“See, the virgin will become pregnant, and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us” (Matt. 1:23 HCSB).
For missionary teams around the world, Christmas is an exciting time of celebration. It’s a sweet reminder of the presence of a sovereign and faithful God who is leading and directing their paths. It’s a time of remembrance as they reflect on the great sacrifice Christ made when he came.
It’s a time of hopeful anticipation as they envision the day when the people around them will know and worship Jesus. It’s a time of encouragement and fellowship as they gather together with fellow believers to celebrate the birth of Christ. It’s a time of unprecedented opportunity when doors are opened to share the meaning of their celebrations with people who have never heard the gospel.
It’s a time of hopeful anticipation as they envision the day when the people around them will know and worship Jesus.
Living in the Tension
However, missionaries live in the tension of the great contrast between the joy, peace, and celebration described above and the darkness, hopelessness, and need which daily surrounds them. This is a reminder of the urgency of our task to share the hope and light of Christ with the world. The nations need to know that Christ came to save us from our sins and to give us life.
This is the reason missionaries go—to be an incarnational witness, to be a light in the darkness, to bring hope to the hopeless. Missionaries often take great risk for the sake of getting the gospel to hard and unreached places, but they go out of joyful obedience, and they go with confidence in a faithful God who is with them and has gone before them. Missionaries live among unreached people because Christ came to live among us, to be with us, and to save us.
Christmas is about God’s Mission
This is the message of Christmas—the coming of our King to live among us, to bring light and hope, to save us, to rescue us. This is the message of Immanuel, God with us. This message, which encourages missionaries personally as they face challenges, is also the sustaining hope of believers around the world who daily live in the face of suffering and persecution. It’s the message the world so desperately needs to hear, and it’s the message we have the wonderful privilege of sharing with others.
So this Christmas, in the midst of all of the tinsel and festivals and caroling and holiday cheer:
- Rest and rejoice in the presence of the King.
- Pray for missionaries around the world who are incarnational witnesses of the Savior who has come.
- Pray for the unreached who have not yet heard the good news.
- Seek ways to share the joy of Christmas with those around you.
Because, Immanuel, God is with us!
Stefani Varner serves on the Church Initiatives Team at IMB. She previously served as a missionary in South Asia.