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Doing the Work of Christmas
Evidencing the Spirit of the Lord
By Rev. Bob Terry
This article originally appeared in the January 2011.
Bethlehem’s star has been packed away for another year. So have the costumes used by the shepherds and the wise men. Celebrating Christmas is past.
Now it is time to do the work of Christmas.
It is time to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the captive, to announce healing for the blind and release to the oppressed. That is how the Baby of Christmas described his adult ministry in Luke 4:18-19. The reason? Because “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” Jesus said.
Reflecting on this passage, one preacher noted that the evidence of God’s presence in one’s life is not “how high you jump” but “how straight you walk.” The presence of God is not evidenced by indulging one’s self but in giving one’s self away in concern for others.
The Bible is unmistakably clear. Proverbs 29:7 states, “The righteous care about justice for the poor but the wicked have no such concern.”
The Old Testament shows God promoting a system that called for the community to help meet the needs of the poor. Amos, the prophet from Tekoa, condemned Judah because the society cheated and abused the poor and powerless. By their actions, the people of Judah demonstrated the absence of the Spirit of the Lord and needed to repent, Amos declared.
Jesus announced this same principle in Matthew 25:31. He invited the righteous into his everlasting kingdom because they had fed the hungry, cared for the homeless, clothed the naked, nursed the sick, and remembered the prisoner.
The ungodly were cast out precisely because they had not done these things.
The first group evidenced the Spirit of the Lord. The second did not. The actions of both demonstrated that “the righteous care about justice for the poor but the wicked have no such concern.”
The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data on food insecurity confirmed that almost one in eight American families (14.7 percent) struggle with hunger—about 45 million people. USDA said that food insecurity in the United States stands at the highest level since the government started tracking it.
Food insecurity held steady between 2000 and 2007 at about 10 percent. But the economic downturn has forced more people to seek assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) had an increase in participation of 18.7 percent. Participation in the free school lunch program jumped by 5.4 percent and in WIC by 5.8 percent.
Worldwide, hunger is growing again after decades of decline. Experts estimate that high food prices have resulted in more hungry people than at any other time in the past decade.
Unfortunately, the same economic problems that caused a jump in the number of hungry people are causing some countries, including the United States, to consider cutting back on help for the hungry.
Thankfully, Bread for the World is here to advocate justice for the poor. Bread shares the concerns of those interested in getting the greatest benefit from our aid. That is why Bread supports the reform of U.S. foreign aid. Bread cares about the health of mothers and infants. That is why Bread fights malnutrition at home and around the world. Bread cares about hungry families. That is why Bread urges adequate funding for SNAP and similar programs.
Bread’s work for the hungry and poor is evidence of the Spirit of the Lord. And your work for poor and hungry people is evidence of the Spirit’s presence on you, too.
Bob Terry serves on Bread for the World’s board. He is publisher and editor of The Alabama Baptist and an executive committee member of the Baptist World Alliance.