Jesus, the First Missionary

When we think of Christmas, I would venture that the first thing popping into your mind isn’t missions. We think of family and honey-baked hams and Michael Buble - anything but missions. Perhaps, though, you’re more theologically bent, and you run towards the incarnation or second advent of Jesus. You sip on your hot chocolate as you ponder the wondrous truth of Jesus being both truly God and truly human. Even still, for most of us, missions isn’t at the forefront of Christmas considerations. Perhaps it should be.

The Bible places tremendous emphasis on Jesus’ mission and identity based on his lineage, i.e. whose son he is. I think we need to do a better job at looking at Jesus' family tree during Christmas so we can better understand what happened in that manger over 2,000 years ago.

Just look at how the New Testament begins. It doesn’t start with a burst of angelic praise or the birth of the Savior King. It starts with a lineage. Cue the yawns. Seriously? A genealogy is how the Holy Spirit inspired the authors to begin the apex of the redemptive story that the entire scriptures had been building to?

“An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1)

Matthew is saying, “Hey, look at this boy Jesus. In order to understand why he is here, you have to understand where he’s come from. All of those promises made to people in Israel, they will finally be fulfilled in this child. So, when you think of Jesus being born, think of the promises made to Abragam and David."

Now, let’s zoom in on one articular character in the first Christmas narrative: Zechariah. He was John the Baptist’s father. When he hears of Jesus’ birth, it shouldn’t surprise us that his first two thoughts were of David and of Abraham.

“He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered his holy covenant—the oath that he swore to our father Abraham.” Luke 1:69, 72-73a (CSB)

Zechariah and Matthew are helping us see what we should be focusing on every Christmas: the fact that all the promises of God made throughout Scripture find their "yes" in this child. What does it mean that God remembered his holy covenant he swore to Abraham? And what, if anything, does that have to do with missions? For these answers, we must look back at what that covenant was.

The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:1-3, CSB)

There are more ramifications to this oath, but you get the gist of what God is doing. He will begin the work of setting apart a people to himself and for himself through this man the named Abram who later had his name changed to Abraham.
From this nation will come the promised child of Genesis 3:15 that will crush the serpent's head and that blessing of salvation and redemption won't just rest with Abraham or his family or even just the nation of Israel. That blessing will flow through them to all the peoples on earth!

When God entered the scene to put in motion the plan he promised in Genesis 3, he had the desire for every nation in mind as he spoke to this one man. God’s heart has always been that people from every tribe tongue and nation would gather around the throne to worship Jesus. This is the very image we see at the end of the Bible in Revelation 7. It’s there around the heavenly throne that we see the covenant made to Abram fulfilled.

When Jesus was born, God was quite literally putting his feet on the ground to accomplish that mission, the one of worldwide redemption through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his Son. Jesus Christ left the comforts and benefits of heaven to go into another land and live there among those people in order to bring redemption and salvation to a lost and dying world. He left his home to go into a foreign country to spread his gospel. Lying there, in the manger, was the very first Christian missionary. 

So, then. Eat great food and watch terrible Hallmark movies. Enjoy exchanging gifts and seeing family. But keep at the forefront of your hearts the missional flavor intrinsic within this season. See the missionary God accomplishing his worldwide redemptive plan be sure to hear this same God calling you to be a part of it as well.