More people attend church on the run up to Christmas than at any other time of the year. Whether it’s to see their kids perform in a nativity play or to sing carols, this is the time of year that the harvest comes to us. Second only to the gift of Jesus himself, I think that this is one of the best gifts that the Lord gives us each year.
‘Then he said to his disciples “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”’. This extract from Matthew’s gospel tells us of what Jesus said when he saw the crowds as he wondered from town to town proclaiming the good news. Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them because ‘they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’.
Lots of metaphors here. The crowd were those who were as yet unbelievers, they were also the harvest and the sheep, who, without a shepherd to protect and guide them would be ripped to pieces by wild animals (destroyed by satan). The workers are those of us who are willing to go into the fields and reap for the Lord. The shepherd, of course, is Jesus.
The key statements here are that Jesus has compassion on them, that the harvest is plentiful, but that the workers are few.
Compassion: We, as followers of Jesus, also should have compassion on unbelievers. As I attend churches bursting at the seams with unbelievers, I often have pity in my heart. If only they could hear the Gospel and share the joy that we have. It should be our greatest sadness that they ever leave a church without accepting Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
The harvest is plentiful: It was in Jesus day and it is today. Church attendance is growing year on year, and also increasing in numbers at Christmas according to a recent survey published by the evangelical alliance. More people seem to be interested in ‘spiritual’ things than ever before. There is a new openness. I often think that certain people will no way want me to tell them the Gospel, but in almost every case I have been surprised by their openness to hear. There are billions of people that do not know the true Gospel, many of your friends, family and neighbours will be among them.
The workers are few: When was the last time you told someone the Gospel? Are you involved in outreach? Sadly there are many Sunday Christians who fold Jesus up after church and put him in the boot of their car ready for next Sunday! But we need to be aware that even though there are few Christian workers, there are plenty of thieves who will happily raid our fields and steal the Lord’s harvest. In the old testament there are stories of when the Israelites turned their back on God and their neighbouring tribes would regularly raid their fields. We see this happening today with cults and other religions raiding our fields, not to mention the world itself with all its distractions taking a huge chunk of the Lord’s harvest.
So, when God so lovingly brings the harvest into our churches this year, be determined to give a strong Gospel message. Forget conforming to the worldly Christmas, with messages confusing santa with Jesus or preaching Christian morality, fire up your combine harvesters and reap a good harvest for the Lord!
Have a safe and peaceful Christmas.