In many of my past Christmas columns, I have written about God’s precious gift of Jesus Christ as the savior of the world. It’s a traditional Christmas theme that most of us are used to reading during this time of year. I cannot count how many sermons I heard preached about this “good news” growing up in church.
I will have a recalibrated focus for Christmas in 2020, as just “being in the land of the living,” another proverbial saying I heard in church as a child, truly has cherished meaning. As of this writing, the U.S. has more than 17 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 316,844 Americans have died from the virus. There are over 78 million COVID-19 cases worldwide, so I will joyously praise God this Christmas for the blessing of my health.
Now, you may ask, since I am praising God for health and other blessings, what do I really mean in the column title regarding giving Him something for Christmas? After all, God has and owns everything, right? If we were actually tasked with shopping for a material gift for God, we would probably liken it to the difficulty of trying to find the ideal item for a billionaire such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. Since Gates recently shared his five favorite books for 2020, perhaps some detailed browsing at a Barnes & Noble would suffice for him. But back to God. What could you possibly give to a Spirit who is omniscient? The answer is simple: Yourself.
This week, I was studying scripture passages that instruct believers on how to become living sacrifices for God. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul explains to members of the Roman church that they must be fully dedicated to the will of God and His purpose for their lives. Such dedication requires disciplined yielding to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Doing this is not always easy, and I know that many times I have been impatient in my decision-making and did not pray to God for guidance. I’d say that He was in my plans but then plan ahead and put Him on the back burner.
In being home more this year due to COVID cancelations of school events and working remotely, I have had more time to reflect on the trajectory of my life. Living through a pandemic definitely gets you into a contemplating mood, and one of the things that stood out in my reading of Romans is that, as a member of the body of Christ, my ministry should now, more than ever, impart faith, joy, comfort, understanding and hope in others.
These are things that we have said the church should be doing for years, and we tend to have a more fervent emphasis on them during the Christmas holiday season. But carrying out ministerial deeds without being a living sacrifice just means one is merely going through the motions. Seeing the vast suffering, enormous loss and agonizing mourning brought on by the coronavirus in 2020 has opened my eyes to how the world has really needed God and the church all along.
However, during this time, the world needs to see the results of the effectual power of the church through Christ in changing lives. It’s not enough for me to just speak an uplifting word to someone and assist with my money and resources. My words should have the power behind them to speak a miracle of healing and provision into someone’s life. My lifestyle should have an emanating presence that draws people to the love of God.
This is what being a living sacrifice entails and is genuinely what Christmas is all about, since Christ sacrificed His life for us.
I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Christmas in 2020 than with a rededication to God’s will and plans for me. I encourage all who read this to do the same. It’s the perfect gift God has been waiting for.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at The Ohio State University-Lima. Email her at email@example.com. @JjSmojc