By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
EDGEWATER, Md.—Christmas is one of the holiest times of the year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, calling attention to Him through their increased acts of reverence, honor and worship.
But David Hemphill, pastor of First Church, Edgewater, knows that Christians can look like and act like nonbelievers during this special season. To that end, he asks, “How will the world you live in be able to look at you and see any difference between your life and their own other than that you attended a Christmas Eve service?”
For the second year in a row, in an initiative entitled, “Christmas in Jesus’ name,” the pastor is urging church families to build a strong foundation, start a tradition and leave a heritage that will change lives.
“As members set their lives and families apart as followers of Christ, not culture, they will discover God changing their lives, the lives of those they love, the lives of those they touch, and the lives of those who watch,” he said.
To that aim, he encourages families to gather and discuss the true meaning of Christmas. Using discussion guides available on his church website, families can discuss how Jesus was born, how He lived His life, and how He died. They can ponder what He expects of His followers. They can discuss how the American culture celebrates Christmas. Who is the focus? What is the point? Then, they can glorify and praise God.
Most of all, Hemphill wants each family to decide how they can make Jesus the genuine focus in all of their family celebrations.
He urges parents to share with their children about how they prepare for Christmas. He asks them to consider what family traditions they have that point the family toward Christ. For instance, do they have a nativity calendar? Do they make a birthday cake for Jesus and sing happy birthday to Him?
Hemphill suggests, “They could say to their family, ‘These are the funds we have for Christmas, how much of this should we give to honoring Christ on His birthday?’”
As a family, they can decide on an amount or a percentage that they will use to genuinely celebrate and worship by being Jesus to those who suffer.
To support the ministries of their choice, be Jesus to suffering people and help missionaries share the Gospel with them, FBC, Edgewater provides information each week about the following ministries:
— Samaritan’s Purse, a ministry of Billy Graham that reaches hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, community development, medical projects, and other assistance in the name of Jesus Christ;
– Project: AK-47, which rescues children in armed conflict by building relationships with the armed groups that use AK-47s and by investing in what they believe is important for their communities;
– Baptist Global Response, the Southern Baptist relief and development organization that seeks to help the poor and suffering have the opportunity to experience a full and meaningful life;
– North American Mission Board, who assists Southern Baptists in their task of fulfilling the Great Commission in the United States, Canada and their territories, as well as throughout the rest of the world through the International Mission Board;
– WorldCraftsSM, a nonprofit ministry of the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) of the Southern Baptist Convention, that imports items that are made by men and women living in poverty; and
– World Vision, a Christian humanitarian charity organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
And lastly, Hemphill urges each family to make a family commitment to invite family and friends to High Attendance Sunday on December 12. He instructs the families to pray daily for those they invite.
“The responses we have gotten so far have been outstanding,” Hemphill shared.
John Doherty, a deacon at First Church, Edgewater, felt the effort was a real blessing for his family.
“Last year, as a family, we decided what we would sacrifice and how we would put other people in need first,” he said. Ultimately, they bought a goat and some chickens through World Vision to help sustain a family on the other side of the world.
“What a better way to give than to help other families in need and to share the Gospel with them!” Doherty stressed. “Many people don’t understand what other nations go through. Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we all do this and make a big difference?”
Terry Densberger, church secretary, agrees. “If each one of us just does one thing, we can make an impact,” she says.
Acknowledging that God burdens each person with different causes, Densberger is thankful for the different opportunities presented.
“We challenge people to not just give in the regular tradition, but to give sacrificially to help a family across the globe. That’s what Jesus was about. He cared for the poor and suffering, and we should, too.”
For her effort, Diane Grigg organized a WorldCraftsSM party, which showcases a collection of unique and beautiful handmade items from around the world. These high quality products are fairly traded items, which means they are produced under non-exploitative conditions by artisans who are paid a fair wage. When WorldCraftsSM products are purchased, participants join with other caring people to provide income, improved self-esteem, and hope to artisans living in poverty.
Assisting more than 60 artisan groups (women and men) around the world who live in poverty in providing for their families, those who support artisan groups buy meaningful gifts for their family and friends. In some cases, these artisan groups are comprised of women who have escaped human trafficking.
“I just love WorldCraftsSM and the thought that I can in some way help someone else in the world,” Grigg says. “We are so fortunate to have the freedoms that we have.”
To learn more about FBC, Edgewater’s “Christmas in Jesus’ Name,” visit online at www.fbcedgewater.com.