Witness Christ during Festivals, Celebrations and Special Occasions
Dr. Saju Joseph
The chief task of a Christian is to witness for Christ. If a Christian is reluctant to witness for Christ, we have to suspect his or her Christian conviction.
The early Church was a witnessing Church. In fact, the main intent behind the sending of the Holy Spirit by our Lord on the day of Pentecost was to empower His disciples so they could witness for Christ everywhere on earth.
When we think of witnessing during festivals and special seasons, it can take place in two ways. We can communicate the gospel with peoples of other faiths during their festivals without disturbing their celebrations or ceremonies. During festivals, large crowds gather together. We can witness on the roadside or as they travel in vehicles - wherever, Christians can witness for Christ meaningfully and peacefully without hurting the religious feeling of others.
We must use Christian festivals, seasons and celebrations as times to witness Christ. Christians celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Passion Week and other holy days. Other times of social celebrations such as marriage ceremonies, house warming, birthday parties are opportune moments to share Christ with others. The Christians who follow sola scriptura (Bible only) generally don’t have special celebrations of Christmas or Easter. But the majority of people, irrespective of any religious differences, consider these festivals as typically Christian. They are in an open state of mind not just to celebrate but to know the origin and purpose behind these celebrations or observances. Evangelical Christians must use these occasions to witness for Christ and His salvation through communicating the Gospel in effective and attractive ways.
Evangelical Christians don’t believe in the outward celebrations of Christian themes. Instead, they emphasize the inward experiences of Christ’s life and teachings. They don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter and don’t observe Passion Week, Lent or other days. But since these are generally accepted Christian seasons of celebrations, the biblical/evangelical churches can organize special meetings, public programs, rallies with attractive singing or music concerts to communicate the gospel to people from all different walks of life. Our ultimate aim must be to truly witness for Christ and His salvation to all people.
Our Lord commanded his disciples to just share the gospel with all people in His last Commission. However, Our Lord has never commanded us to compel or force others to follow Christ or Christianity. Neither did Jesus nor the apostles ever compel anyone to follow him. Compulsion or force is the work of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit will work only if we share the gospel with people.
There are so many special occasions in a Christian’s life. They are all golden opportunities for us to witness for Christ. For example: our marriage ceremonies. Most Christians today give importance to the external decorations and feasting in marriage ceremonies. Evangelical/biblical Christians may even set apart a time for the ministry of the Word of God. However, most times these messages focus on the counseling aspects. It is good, no doubt, to mention a few things related to married life during its solemnization – but this must not be seen as a substitute for pre-marital counseling.
In many Christian marriages in India, the only semblance of marital counseling the couple receive is during the wedding service – this is not really the place for effective counseling. Instead, more time can take place in the marriage services for communicating the gospel in very simple terms for the benefit of the many friends and relatives of the bride and bridegroom. This is an audience that one cannot have easy access to in any other way. If used well, we can impact lives with the salvation message and create in hearts of the people a hunger for the Truth. May God give us the wisdom and creativity to use such occasions most appropriately.
House-warming and birthday celebrations are also occasions when all our friends, relatives and neighbors gather together, hailing from various religious or church backgrounds. Contextual presentation of the gospel must be the focus.
Besides festive occasions, there are times and situations of sorrow and pain like sickness, death and burial in homes. These are also poignant moments when we have a chance to present the gospel in a very meaningful way. Wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit alone cause us to make use of these special occasions. What is of utmost importance is to reduce the number of repetitious and self-promoting condolence speeches in burial services! Instead adequate time must be set apart to present brief yet comforting gospel messages in simple, lucid style appropriate to the occasion.
No matter where we go as Christians, let us not cease to use every opportunity to lift up the name of Christ and be His WITNESS, in season and out of season.