Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
This past Sunday in our service we reflected on the very first worshipers of Jesus at Christmas—the shepherds. They were an unlikely invite to the royal guest list. Stinky. Dirty. Underappreciated. These were not men that were overly respected or valued in their 1st century community. Yet, there they are, with their staffs in hand, worshiping the newborn king on the night of that first noel.
For them that night started off like every other. Nothing strange. Nothing out of the ordinary. The shepherds were out doing what they did every other night. They were simply doing their job—a blue-collar, bottom-rung, minimum wage, underappreciated but absolutely necessary work. In an instant, their lives, and the entire course of history changed forever. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9) There is something here we can easily overlook; and if we miss it, we can’t duplicate it. The only reason the shepherds showed up and found that baby wrapped in swaddling clothes was because they were invited. The shepherds may have noticed a brighter-than-normal star hanging in the sky, but they would not have made any connection to Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled. They certainly would not have left their flocks and hurried off into town. They would not have even known there was a miraculous birth that night which would change the world forever. If the angel had not shown up to extend the invitation, they would have missed the whole thing. They wouldn’t have been there. Can you even imagine a Christmas program or nativity set with no shepherds?!? It’s preposterous. That would be baa-ed.
I remember talking with an old neighbor several years ago. He was born and raised in the church but had become disenfranchised with organized religion. He had long walked away from his faith. He considered himself an agnostic. I invited him to church. He said, “A lot of my friends go to church. They talk about their church. But you’re the first person to ever actually invite me to attend.” He came not long after to check us out.
According to a recent study, by churchgrowth.org, 86% of people who start attending a church do so because they are invited by someone. Only 2% attend because of advertising and only 6% for either invitation by a pastor or organized visitation. 86%!
Brothers and sisters, this is my challenge to you. Invite someone you know and care about to worship with you this Christmas. A friend. A neighbor. A co-worker. A family member. Invite someone to join you for worship this Christmas. Last year, here at King of Kings, we had under 120 total people in worship on Christmas Eve. How cool would it be if we were able to double that number this year? Not so that we could boast, brag, or collect more offering. But so that more people would be able to hear the wonderful, glorious message of Christmas. We may not have the same angel present, but the heart of Christmas is just as real and relevant today as it was for the shepherds. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Our loved ones and acquaintances won’t come unless their invited. They won’t be here to receive this good news unless you ask. I know this may seem like a scary or daunting task; but my prayer is that we all take this challenge seriously. After all, at some point in our lives, we were invited to church (or forced by parents). Either way, we wouldn’t be here without the nudging and encouragement of another person. At Christmas especially, people are more receptive to giving church a try. What could it hurt? My neighbor didn’t come to church because I had a “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign in my front yard. He didn’t come and worship because I had a “It's OK to Wish Me a Merry Christmas” button on my jacket. He came because he received a genuine, personal invitation from someone he knew and trusted. I’m sure there are many others out there like him. Whether your a member reading this blog, or another person in a different state, our call to be a witness and make disciples knows no boundaries. No matter where you will be worshiping this Christmas, bring someone with you!
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14
Pastor Steve Vera