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Guest blog: Imagine this Christmas if we kept just 50 per cent of our gifts and gave the rest away?

The commercialisation of Christmas offers us a great opportunity, says KP Yohannan, GFA World

Christmas didn’t really mean anything to me growing up in India. December 25 came and went with barely a mention, let alone recognition. Today, largely because of social media, things are so different – and what an opportunity this presents for the Church of Jesus Christ across the globe. 

Believers often bemoan the commercialisation of Christmas. In the 1970s I visited a church in Dallas around December time and saw my first large Christmas tree. I was completely amazed. It was so big that people were standing on the branches and singing. I later learned that $25,000 had been spent on that tree. I couldn’t believe it. 

In recent times, the Christmas buzz in Western countries starts around October. I read recently that for many stores, 90 per cent of their annual sales are made at Christmas. It’s amazing how much is wasted. 

I used to be quite cynical and sad about the waste and the commercialisation of Jesus’ birth, but I must admit I’ve learned to love Christmas now. It’s a time I look forward to and it’s a season where I’m personally challenged to do more, serve more and give more. I don’t really want any gifts, but I do want to be a blessing to others and be as far-reaching as I can with that blessing.

We can’t blame people for being born into privilege, but we can challenge them to use what they have to bless others. In the same way that Christ, left the luxury of heaven to rescue us. We can use his example to care for those in need and those who are less fortunate than we are. Imagine this Christmas if we kept just 50 per cent of our gifts and gave the rest away, or if we used half of the money we were going to spend on presents to reach those who have nothing instead?  What an impact this could have if all Christians did this!

GFA World, the organisation I started in 1979, has always been committed to taking God’s love to areas in the world where often no one else is working. We are taking care of more than 70,000 children and are supporting many missionaries and families. There has never been a more challenging time than now, when the Covid-19 pandemic has paralysed the entire world. In many Asian countries, the setback is huge and it will take many years to recover. 

The latest troubles in Afghanistan will cause many to die of starvation, and people are fleeing to Pakistan and other countries trying to get refuge. The needs are big but the opportunity is even bigger. The love of Jesus gives us a chance to do more. God cares about all people and we have the privilege of reaching them. Life on earth is not forever – it’s actually quite short – and spreading the love of Jesus is urgent and critical, and there’s no better time to do this than at Christmas. 

Every year our workers help 150,000 families who are living in dire situations. We express God’s love by caring, rescuing people out of poverty and showing a practical demonstration of God’s love. For example, in some communities we buy goats for families so they can sell milk. They can then build an income and buy chickens, creating a sustainable income so they can live self-sufficiently. 

The Chinese proverb says, rather than give a starving person a fish, teach them to fish instead. This is so true. In parts of Asia where women have been forced to work in the red light district, we rescue them and invite them to sewing classes, as the first bug step towards helping them make a living so they can leave the world of prostitution behind. 

When we brush our teeth, take a shower, spray perfume, we carry that scent with us wherever we go. As Christians, we ought to do the same. The fragrance of Christ should be with us 24/7. We should live for eternity, not just for our time here on earth. 

The beauty of Christmas is that it’s a time when I can see, touch and feel Christ. His name is on everyone’s lips and I have an opportunity to put it on mine. This is not a make-believe story but a beautiful account of a baby born to save the world. This is our most important season of the year and the time when we can take the Lord Jesus’ love to those around us. 

My challenge for you this Christmas is to not only have a great time with your friends and families, but to think of those around the world who are crying out for hope. Today you can be the difference, you can be the one to help them. 

* Dr KP Yohannan started GFA World in 1979. He has published more than 200 books published in Asia and eleven in the United States. With more than 3.9 million copies in print, Yohannan's landmark book, Revolution in World Missions, is an international bestseller. Visit www.gfauk.org for more information.

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