Christmas break for campus ministers is a time to catch up on Netflix and sleep in….at least that’s what the perception can be. As any campus minister knows, while the break does provide some much-needed reprieve, there is plenty to be done: year-end giving letters, spring planning, ministry to students dealing with the culture shock of returning home, and more. But for me, my top priority during this season is spending time with family.
If we aren’t careful, Christmas break can perpetuate what I believe is an unhealthy false dichotomy: family vs. ministry. The language around the holidays in general is: “we’re setting aside time to spend with our family.” This is certainly a good thing since ministry pulls us in a million directions and time with spouses, little ones and parents often suffers. However, we must always be wary of falling into the mindset that we turn from ministry to family. Instead, we ought to think of family as the means of ministry.
The biblical model for mission is both widely varied and follows this pattern: Gather, Purify, Send. God gathered the ancient Israelites and gave them a law so that they might shine a light to the nations. In the same way the church will shine a light when we love each other well. It is not only the way we love our enemies and those who persecute us that will shine this light; it is our internal love for our spiritual brothers and sisters that will lead the world to recognize us as disciples. (John 13:34-35)
In light of this, it is important to note that family relations is one of Paul’s many concerns for the church. In his view, Christ-like love within a family unit is both the outworking and expression of the gospel. Consider Paul’s famous instructions to the family in Ephesians 5:22-6:4. This is a continuation of what it means to be imitators of God (5:1) and walk in a manner worthy of our calling. (4:1) As we act as Christ to one another, the Spirit works among us, sharpening us and stirring us up to love and good works. (Heb. 10:24) The family is one of the central places where Christian love can flourish.
So, this Christmas season, I encourage you to focus on loving your family well and serving together with them. As we do so, we will be strengthened and the family will become the resting place from which ministry is nourished. Moreover, as this love flourishes in the family, it will spill out naturally onto others. As others see this love and experience the ministry that overflows from it, the world will see Christ.
Consider these ideas for your own family this Christmas:
· Make sure your time together isn’t screen-oriented. Talk, play games, or do something creative. Spouses could read a book together
· Give your spouse some time to themselves, and do something together for Advent such as reading Scripture together, finding an Advent devotional, or doing something special for your kids
· Drop a gift on a neighbor’s doorstop on Christmas morning
· Help the elderly with leaves or snow
· Do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? Find a way to include them
Blessings on you and your family this holiday season.
Associate Campus Minister at Virginia Tech