From the very beginning of Jesus’ entrance into the world, we see God’s promise being fulfilled that with Him would come hope for ALL the nations, not just Israel.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” —Matthew 2:1–2
Unlike Luke, Matthew does not tell us about the shepherds coming to visit Jesus in the stable. His focus is immediately on foreigners coming from the east to worship Jesus. So Matthew portrays Jesus at the beginning and ending of his Gospel as a universal Messiah for the nations, not just for Jews. Here the first worshipers are court magicians or astrologers or wise men not from Israel but from the East—perhaps from Babylon. They were Gentiles. And at the end of Matthew, the last words of Jesus are, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. (Excerpt From: Piper, John. “Good News of Great Joy.” Desiring God, 2012.)
Praise God, the door has been opened for all to come near to God through Jesus! As we are busy here with our own disciple-making endeavors, this is a perfect time to remember our dear missionaries – the ones who are in different nations preaching gospel-hope to those nations!
Perhaps there is no other time during the year that a missionary feels more displaced than the holiday season. Their hearts will ache as they see their kids struggle with missing their grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. They’ll long for those special holiday dishes that their limited grocery access or budget (since American food is so expensive abroad) won’t allow them to enjoy. The shipping rates are outrageous for many of them but they’ll try to give their third culture kids a similar kind of Christmas they might have stateside. They will do this all while bearing their own burdens from the heavy load and stress of missionary living. But, they will do it without complaining. They knew this was part of the cost of leaving the comforts of home and the people they love most for something even better – seeing “the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love!”
So, here are a few *postage-free ways we might encourage our co-laborers in the gospel heading into the new year:
1) Did you know most of our missionaries have a Facebook account? Why not “friend” them and use this aspect of social media to send an encouraging greeting from your family to theirs? And have you noticed the “Gift” tab on your friends’ walls? You can easily send gifts to missionary deputees and those home on furlough via this option. An email with the redemption information will be sent to their inbox. What coast to coast traveler can’t use some Starbucks coffee to keep him/her awake?! Also, friending them on Facebook will help you know how best to pray for them in their current situations – like the Huffstutlers in Kenya with little Makalya just being diagnosed with viral pneumonia. (Keep posts on their walls general since some of them may be friends with those they are trying to evangelize. Also, don’t forget to mention what church you’re from to help put a face with a name.)
2) Purchase an iTunes gift card for them. Then send them the account number for it via Facebook message or email.
3) Pray Scripture for them and then encourage them by typing out or pasting from Bible Gateway the verses/passages you prayed.
4) Get your family and friends from church together to create a youtube video greeting for them.
5) Not everyone is in the jungle, so why not call a local pizza place near some church planters your church supports and pay to have a pizza delivered to their house or a fruit bouquet or a seasonal flower arrangement? Stateside church-planters need encouragement too!
6) Give this inexpensive booklet, “Gospel Meditations for Missions,” as a stocking stuffer to yourself 🙂 or your spouse or even your teen. Although your missionaries will not know you have purchased it, they will benefit from your use of it! Inter-City Christian Bookstore in Allen Park has plenty available for purchase. Here’s the link so you know what you’re looking for: http://www.churchworksmedia.com/2011/12/03/gospel-meditations-for-missions/
7) If your missionaries serve in the UK, you can check http://www.amazon.co.uk/ to find if they have created a wish list. You can then purchase something off their list and it will be shipped to them directly from the UK.
8) Pick-up the “Missions Prayer Guide” at your church and commit to praying more regularly for them throughout the new year.
Let’s spread some joy to those spreading the greatest Joy to the world!
*Some ideas from desiringgod.org