The concept of a “church” has many definitions, ranging from the Sacred aspects found in scripture, to the very mundane descriptions in the code of the Internal Revenue Service. In our everyday lives, when we think of going to church, we are generally considering a particular piece of property with a particular pastor where we convene with our familiar brothers and sisters in Christ to share in divine worship. A church exists at many levels, but all of them are important.
But something I’d like you to think about is this: we’ve all been deputized to share God’s love and God’s word. Living as we do in a fallen world, a world that by its very nature hates God, some aspects of this are easier than others, though we will always fall short in even the most simple.
We can treat our neighbors, and all whom we meet, in the way we’d want them to treat us. And this is good. Particularly if our commitment to Christianity is known, it will be a positive reflection on our faith. In general, we won’t meet with much resistance, and we aren’t taking much of a risk by treating someone the way we’d want to be treated. Few people object to being treated kindly and honestly.
Sharing becomes more difficult when we explicitly tie that kindness and honesty to our faith, when we speak of our faith explicitly, and when we invite people to church.
Being social creatures, we are sensitive to social cues and disapproval. This is good when it comes to avoiding discussion of upsetting topics at dinner. But this tendency is also used quite deliberately to shut us up, put us in a shell, and make sure the ONLY place we mention our faith is in our homes and in our church. We are expected to act as though the single largest determiner of our life and how we live it … doesn’t even exist.
But let’s think again about treating others the way we’d want to be treated. Although church certainly offers fellowship, it’s not a social club. It’s a place dedicated to Word and Sacrament, Law and Gospel. Although God’s grace is abundant everywhere, church is deliberately designed to be a place where the hearing of the Gospel might inspire the faith granted by God’s Grace. And that faith is very important because it saves our neighbor from the fate that awaits those without it.
I’m certainly not advocating that we should be incessant and annoying. But what I am saying is that we are commanded to love our neighbors, and that goes beyond merely treating them equitably. It also means wanting them to be saved.
We are now in the Advent season, a season during which we rejoice in God’s keeping of his promises, and our salvation.
During this joyous season, when greetings of Merry Christmas present an opportunity that is rare most of the year, we have the perfect ice breaker that will allow us to share our faith and God’s Word with others, and invite them to join us in offering thanks and praise.