Reading Salvation Army Commissioner Jim Knaggs recent post Christmas Hope prompted me to share my thoughts on this same subject. It seems that "hope" is a popular theme for various church based charity Christmas campaigns this year.
Baptist World Aid Australia - Be Hope Christmas Appeal
"In Jesus, God has given an incredible gift of hope to the world. His love is renewing creation, bringing an end to poverty, exploitation and injustice. As we share Jesus love and live out His hope, incredible change is taking place...extreme poverty is ending."
Anglicare SA - Be An Angel Of Hope This Christmas
"We are local people, looking after local people. We believe poverty, disadvantage, old age or disability shouldn’t be the final word on someone’s life; we’re all entitled to be a part of a vibrant, positive community. Anglicare SA is seeking help for families who are struggling this Christmas. We want to make the festive season a time of hope for all people in Adelaide, and to bring a brighter New Year to the unemployed, the homeless, the suffering and children in care."
St Vincent de Paul Society - In Every Face Of Despair, We See A Face Of Hope
"Today, as many families prepare to celebrate the festive season with their loved ones, please spare a thought to those people doing it tough this Christmas. Some gifts have the ability to stay with a person for life and forever change the way they see the world and how they deal with it. Hope is such a gift. At Vinnies, we see hope in the face of despair."
The Salvation Army - Hope Christmas Appeal
When hope changes lives..."Two weeks before Christmas Susan and her family finally moved into permanent housing. The house was empty, and the few pieces of furniture Susan stored in a shed had been stolen or smashed. The family began by sleeping on the floor, until we brought around a trailer-load of furniture and an old fridge. In the ‘lounge’ was a second-hand Christmas tree the family found. The children sat alongside it, but there were no presents. Our Salvos volunteers got to work and found presents for the three children, wrapped them and wrote the children’s names on them so Susan could put them under the tree as if Santa had brought them. When Susan saw the presents, she just started crying because she couldn’t believe that people would care so much. A few months later, one of the children thanked me for the presents they’d received. He especially liked his ‘Nerf toy’, and said he had played with it every single day! The thing that really touched my heart was that Susan had three babies who all died at birth. Each Christmas, she and her surviving children have donated three small gifts to a charity in remembrance of the babies. They did this even in the year they were living in the car.” Your Christmas will mean more this year when you give.
While I applaud the genuine love and care expressed by each of the above mentioned agencies, their respective campaign pitch highlights a number of questions that have been troubling me this Christmas. As a part of the body of Christ, what does our Christmas campaign promote as the source of hope? Is our message of hope primarily material or spiritual? Where is Jesus found in our message of hope?
I recognise and embrace the "whatever you do for the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46) dimension of our Christian message. I understand the alignment between our social mission and the fundamental principle of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I know that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26). But how far do those we serve need to look to find the why behind the what? How intentional are we in sharing the message behind our mission?
Out of the Christmas campaign messages of hope I've presented, I am most encouraged by the upfront declaration "In Jesus, God has given an incredible gift of hope to the world" by Baptist World Aid Australia. While I know little about their mission, I do know from their campaign pitch that Jesus is unmistakably their source of hope and "As [they] share Jesus love and live out His hope, incredible change is taking place...extreme poverty is ending."