The best we can do is to label Christmas as a time for giving and when baby Jesus was born in a manger. After the supermarket carols have stopped and the wrapping paper all binned we do not often reflect on what the incarnation means. Nor do we search for application on how we can follow this model to “be Christ” in our communities. Here are some thoughts on baby Jesus, the incarnation and fun runs.
The core concept is that God rescues us by sending Jesus to be “Immanuel,” or God with us. John’s gospel explains that Jesus, as the eternal Word, became flesh and lived among us. The birth of Jesus reveals a God that sympathizes with our weakness, reaches out to us and provides a way we can be restored back to God. God’s outreach plan was the incarnation: to send Jesus into our world to live with us and love us so we might turn to Him.
Now consider your church’s outreach plan or the way you, as part of God’s people, live out your faith. Does it mirror this incarnation model of being Jesus to the people God has placed you with?
Many churches I have seen expect people to find them and walk through their church doors to hear the “good news.” They put on events hoping to attract people. And while there is merit and Biblical support for “attractional ministry” the model Jesus provides is not attracting people to a building but going into the community to love and serve them. The better translation of Matthew chapter 28 Great Commission is not “go and make disciples” but “as you go (about your life), make disciples.” Just as Jesus came into our reality, communicated with and loved us, so to we are to love and serve those in the places God has placed us. This could be anywhere: our workplace, families or sporting clubs.
One potential example is the new parkrun craze that has taken the world by storm. Parkruns are organized free, weekly, 5km timed fun runs. Local community groups have sprung up around Australia to start these events. The vision is to have people enjoy physical activity in a local supportive community environment.
The results speak for themselves. Each Saturday thousands come together to run or walk with others and chat after the event. This is all facilitated by the volunteers that organize it for their communities.
Baby Jesus and parkruns
Now take the key to Christmas (incarnation) and add it to parkrun. What you get is a gem for local churches. Imagine local churches strategically making Saturday mornings part of their “outreach.” Churches getting to know their communities by putting on these local fun runs and being present just as Jesus was among His people. The model, like Jesus, is one of being intentional in serving their communities and building relationships.
Many of the most powerful ministries I have seen over the years use this model. From sports chaplaincy impacting thousands of sporting clubs to Christians in Men’s Sheds to Manly Music programs, there are numerous examples of what Jesus displayed for us.
Jeremy Dover is a former Sports Scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover1.html And https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html