The Bible has a lot to say about expectations. Romans 4:18 credits Abraham’s faithful expectation with the fruit of his life, “Against all odds, when it looked hopeless, Abraham believed the promise and expected God to fulfill it. He took God at his word, and as a result, he became the father of many nations.” Hebrews 11:1 echoes, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Jesus regularly asked people what they expected from him, and we see him move miraculously in response to those who acted with the faith-filled expectation that he would respond.
If faith is tied to our confident expectation, the question becomes, what are you expecting God to do in and through your church’s Christmas services?
Let me clarify. I assume all of us in church leadership understand the importance of Christmas. We have often spent weeks in preparation because we expect a big turn out, we suspect that nonbelievers will be in our midst, we know there will be high expectations of us in return. The question is about heart posture. What are you and the rest of your staff asking God for this year? What are you looking forward to in faith to see him do? Jesus said we have not because we ask not. Have you asked? Or do you assume God will do his part because we’ve done ours?
As one sage pastor on our staff observed, the problem with ministry is that we can get good at it. With routine and skill, I can learn how to perform the tasks of ministry with such effectiveness that I can edit the Holy Spirit right out of the process. If I’m not careful, I forget all fruit depends on him. I can start to expect that if I do the same things I’ve always done, in the way I’ve always done them, the result will be the same move of God I’ve seen before. I’ve found myself vulnerable to this mindset, but particularly at Christmas. After so many services, so many “O Holy Nights,” it is easy to assume God will bring the people who need to hear him and will change hearts because we’ve seen him do it before because we’ve done all the practical steps to make it happen.
As church leaders, we are together on the front lines of a grand and holy story, but we can get so caught up in the micro – the tasks to accomplish ministry – that we can lose sight of the macro. The world is in pain, starving for acceptance, and our Christmas services set the table for hurting people to come face to face with the God who is waiting to heal, to love, to save them. We may have known personally the story of the baby in a manger since infancy, but for some sitting in church this Christmas, the hope of Jesus will be brand new – a lifeline in the dark. If we can grasp hold of the fresh excitement of this reality, it is guaranteed to spill over into our preaching, our worship, and the way we greet our guests. As Paul says, “So then, with this amazing hope living in us, we step out in freedom and boldness to speak the truth.” 2 Cor. 3:12
I challenge you to bring fresh expectancy to your Christmas services. Pastor Rick says, “I can tell you what God is doing in your life – as much as you are expecting him to.” What would happen if we expected bigger things for our churches and communities this Christmas, not because of what we can do, but because of who our God is? Christmas is all about the unexpected! A pregnant virgin, a conquering savior entering the scene as a helpless baby, a God who gives his very self for his unruly, wayward children. Perhaps he wants to move in new ways through you and your church this Christmas. I encourage you to take your Christmas goals, add a zero to the end of them, and pray in faith! Jesus promised: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). Together, let’s bring our gifts to him this Christmas, lay them at his feet, and ask him to multiply them in ways only he can do.
Here are a few of the ways we are praying expectantly for the Christmas services of all our Purpose Driven family of churches:
- That God will bring an unprecedented number of unbelievers to hear the Good News for the first time.
- That a wave of new believers will step across the line and become members of a church family.
- That Christmas would be a time of healing and reconciliation for broken relationships in our church families.
- That our staff would stay refreshed in the Holy Spirit and protected from spiritual attack as they serve.