Tonight, it would have been great heading out to the city for some Christmas shopping. But since Joseph was displaying symptoms of a faint flu, Chui and I decided to spend the evening at home and have the kids rest early. Furthermore, we had taken leave from work and were able to appreciate some enjoyable time with friends in the afternoon and as posted in Chui’s facebook status “she had finally taken out her BIG cooking pot after 9 years and felt so good using it like a reunion with her best friend”. Just a few days ago, we were also able to meet up with another non-church friend of whom we had a relational commitment of staying in touch with each other’s journey of life.
It is wonderful to be able to share our Christmas time with friends beyond our Christian circles. Christian circles keep us in an enclosure and can stop one or others from permeating outside or inside. Often, Christians get stuck in their circles. And when they do venture out or allow others to join in, they get stuck with agendas. Seemingly, what better time to carry out these agendas than Christmas time when people seem more susceptible to “buying” Jesus. I would assume that every time a Christian steps out of the circle, he or she is evangelically framed to ask, “How can I convert this acquaintance?” instead of “How can I offer genuine friendship?” I am not nullifying the importance of commitment to Christ but the offer of genuine friendship should be foremost else Jesus becomes a product in our sales agenda.
About a week ago, our local church organized a Saturday afternoon festival at a close-by park. For some, both within and without the walls of our church premise, an event with such a generous budget has to come with an agenda. While profitability was ruled out, as admission and participation were free of charge, the suspicion of proselytization was next. By the closure of the festival, the latter concern was also unfounded as the event was void of a religious agenda. Some might even consider that the giving of free hotdogs and ice cream, the slamming of heads and splattering of faces (as most of the stalls did not possess the machinery of carnival-like games, they had to improvise with sacrificial human targets), the prize offerings of bicycles and iPods, and that all these would contribute to the increase in our congregational numbers. I am sure both organizers and visitors do not see an obligatory correlation between eating free food at the festival and attending Sunday worship the next day. I would think that both sides of the walls deserve more intellectual credit than this last suspicion.
Everyone has agendas. Like every Christmas season that has come before, customers shop for the best deals and shops strive for the most dollars. Churches present their prime programs and people purchase their holiday packages. Children anticipate for their presents under the tree and parents activate their gift lists for families and friends (some experience a sudden environmental consciousness to practice the recycling of gifts). God has an agenda too and that is to love us to the extremes of dying and living for us. It takes love to die and love to live for others. Our local church’s journey with the community of Yishun town is simply to continue in loving them, though stumbling at times. This Christmas is no different.
N.T. Wright writes about the church’s mission in the real world that
“when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the people who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed, then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of. In terms that the author of Acts might have used, when the church is living out the kingdom of God, the word of God will spread powerfully and do its own work.”
[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog]