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"Since you asked ..."

 

Paul Baxter

Question: What can I give this Christmas to my agnostic friend?

Answer: He doesn’t believe. He doesn’t disbelieve. He just doesn’t know what to believe. What can I say/give to him as a Christian gift this Christmas?

Let’s begin with a question to test the waters: “Would you like the Christmas Story to be true?”

In other words, would this agnostic like to believe in a God Who humbles Himself to be born in a stable, placed in a feeding trough for animals, grows up in a grubby, backwater town called Nazareth, works as a carpenter and then an itinerant preacher-teacher-healer, and offers Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins? If a person doesn’t want to believe such a loving God exists, then there is no open door for further discussion – at this time.

However, let us keep in mind what the wise Christian columnist Cal Thomas once wrote: “I suspect even those who don’t believe the [Christmas] story secretly wish it were true.” If your agnostic friend is one of these, then we have an open door to say more!

Does Christ nudge us to step out of our comfort zone to risk embarrassing ourselves by talking about how God is a real and life-changing presence in our lives?

Let’s continue the conversation by asking a question: “What have you got to lose by opening the door to see if God is actually there, wanting and willing to come into your open and receptive mind, soul, and heart?” In other words, what have you got to lose to see if this Christmas Gift might, just might, challenge if not change your life in some mysterious if not miraculous ways?

There are countless testimonies that can hold up under the most intense cross-examination of people who have been forever transformed by “Amazing Grace” – as is the case of the former slave trader John Newton who wrote this great hymn out of his own life-changing experience with Christ! He experienced first-hand how Christ’s kind of love, grace, and mercy can lift us up and out of our most self-centered sinfulness – enabling us to climb the highest mountain beyond not so much the tree line but the selfishness, anger, and hatred which poison our hearts and minds, homes, and communities.

Cal Thomas put it so well: “In an age when love means lust and is too often conditional, this [Christmas Story] offers a love that is personal, redemptive, and unconditional. Christmas is the great story of God becoming human in order that humans might dwell with Him. It is about the helper helping those who cannot help themselves no matter how hard they try.”

There is a third question we must ask ourselves this Christmas before we try to witness to an agnostic friend or relative: Do we have a testimony to share, not so much about the day we walked down an aisle to accept Jesus Christ into our lives, but rather about the Christian life we have lived since then?

Has the Holy Spirit enlivened our conscience by convicting us of those entrenched and camouflaged sins we so love to rationalize away? Has He challenged us to be far better than we would ever want to be? Is His presence constantly helping us not only to confess, but correct our sinful attitudes and habits? Is He enabling us to be cordial and nice, if not loving, to people who are hurtful and even hateful? Does Christ nudge us to step out of our comfort zone to risk embarrassing ourselves by talking about how God is a real and life-changing presence in our lives?

Since Christmas is such a perfect time to be a witness for Christ, in the words of Nike, let’s do it! Perhaps the agnostics among us are just waiting for us to say something that arouses their curiosity and awakens their soul! Let us pray:

Lord, inspire and empower us with Your Spirit and wisdom to give our greatest and personal gift: Our faith in you, hope for the New Year and beyond where You await us, and Your kind of love, grace, and mercy. In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen!

 

Paul Baxter serves as pastor of Church on the Square in LaGrange.