(December 14, 2019) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share Christmas and beyond-centred thoughts…
Had interesting phone calls last week from Israel – very early in the morning(!) being evening up there – from a Bible college in Jerusalem inviting me (Robert) to be involved in one of its language programs.
That’s timely, I thought, especially as a Middle-Eastern church had recently suggested I take on the deanship of a proposed Bible college and I was aware that language knowledge/interpretation would be involved there too. In both cases understanding and explaining certain words would be important; especially as some countries’ grammar is limited whereas English is so expansive!
That affirmative ‘Amen’
Now Hebrew is the language most commonly used in everyday life in Israel and this Israeli lady (let’s just call her Sarah) asked me if I knew what certain biblical words really meant in modern everyday Hebrew language. I didn’t have a chance to say anything for she promptly reeled off ‘Do you know what “Amen” really means, Dr Robert?’ And before I could say that I did, ‘Sarah’ went into an in-depth explanation… to which I quickly got in an ‘Amen’ indicating my agreement.
Some people have wrongly considered the word to indicate a soft, quiet ‘Selah-type pause’ or merely the right thing to say after prayers… but it’s actually quite a strong word, meaning ‘to agree.’
It’s a declaration of affirmation, used colloquially to express strong agreement, thus affirming that we firmly believe in what has just been said.
For example the ’Amen’ of the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20 indicates vigorously agreeing with Jesus to get the gospel ‘out there.
That popular ‘Noel’
Of course one thing leads to another! Later we were tinkering with our new versatile Google Home musical unit and heard the most beautiful rendition of that well-loved The First Noel Christmas carol.
Suddenly that ‘Do you know what certain words mean?’ episode sparked a thought… ‘Noel? Noel! What exactly does “Noel” mean?’ And, yes, one thought can certainly lead to another!
Well, Noel, from the French Noël, means ‘Christmas’ from the Latin word for ‘birth.’ And this famous Christmas song, based on Luke 2:18, The First Noel is about our Saviour Jesus Christ’s birth.
And what a setting for that real ‘first Noel’! Savvy ‘get-it-out-there’ angels picked neither a church nor the religious people of the day to present their grand production of hallelujah singing to. They chose ‘ordinary’ humble busy folk to hear good news for all-humankind from a loving God (Luke 2:8ff).
The reality is that ‘The First Noel’ was ‘out there’ – not in churches!
And the carol itself is one of the most popular everywhere at this time of the year – so many seem to know it or can pick it up quickly and easily, not only new Christians in church circles but even unchurched in busy shopping malls as it comes over the tannoy.
That challenging ‘Out there’
Now shopping malls are ‘out there’ – beyond the four walls of churches but sadly many Christians don’t realise what a mission field they can be. We ourselves often find opportunities to reach out to people in malls and bless them in some way or another: prayer, encouraging words even prophet ones which get strangers thinking and wondering, advice, salvation challenge…
Savvy, alert ‘get-it-out-there’ churches have cottoned on to the need to be ‘with-it’ in respect to getting the real good news of Christmas out there where the unchurched and unsaved are. They’re aiming to reach ordinary non-churchgoing people caught up in the mindset/ busyness and marketplaces of life!
For example, the church we’re attending has been disturbing food parcels to the needy in the local area and has a super Christmas Festival (petting zoo, face-painting, puppet show, hotdogs, slurpees, popcorn, jumping castles and more) planned for tomorrow afternoon open to everybody, followed by a Christmas carol service.
The photos below show Christmas events and carolling from around the world organised by churches –not in churches, rather in shopping malls and marketplaces where lunchtime workers and shoppers make time to go this month whereas they often can’t get to or won’t go to church.
The best non-church carol ‘spontaneous out-there’ event we recall would be this link – Shopping Mall Hallelujah – set in a shopping food mall at lunchtime. It’s brilliant! (Skip the ads and ignore sidebars). What surprised looks from the surrounding diners and then their delight as they join in. It’s creative… taking an opportunity to get the great Hallelujah Chorus message out there to all ages!
There are many, many other such Christmas mall/market/centre stories to find on the web of savvy churches that have got with it! For Google addicts, a really clever link is Digital Nativity Story
That latest ‘in-house catchcry’
Looking ahead, may 2020 produce many meaningful creative mission-centred activities that will reach ‘ordinary people’ where they’re at with the real Christmas story…that of God so loving the world as to give the greatest gift of all (John 3:16).
In that connection a latest in-term church catchcry is long these lines: ‘In 2020, let’s have clear 20/20 vision and move ahead in church growth, allowing the Holy Spirit to have his way in our services.’
If Christmas is almost here, 2020 isn’t far behind! May we all be 20/20 Christians, remembering that when Jesus grew up he was no longer the bundle of joy in the manger but the bringer of joy in the marketplace! He readily reached out to the needy in the marketplace of life with the Father’s good news of salvation, healing and miracles… backed and assisted by the Holy Spirit.
May all churches and Christians move ahead ‘out there’ in 2020 empowered with the Holy Spirit and renewed godly passion for the unchurched, the lost without Christ.
Enjoy celebrating the season’s real meaning and have a creative exciting new year. And… may it be that every time we voice ‘Amen’ – whether in church or anytime, anywhere we pray – we are meaning ‘So be it!’ And be truly trusting that our prayer will definite work out firstly for God’s glory and secondly for us or whoever we prayed about. (See also George Forbes’ What are you waiting for?)
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s link are firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook (Scripture and other emphases in this Onliner ours. Images/pics various general sources).