As I do some shopping around town, I occasionally pass someone ringing a bell representing the Salvation Army. I am grateful for their efforts and remember back to a time when I preached to the Salvation Army in Phoenix at Christmas time and had some rowdy, inebriated people yell, “Shut up, preacher; we’re hungry!” Frankly, they should have been more hungry and thirsty for spiritual things, but it is hard to convince people of the good news when they have empty stomachs. I am grateful for how we will be “Blessing Immokalee” soon to help the needy.
As I pass the bell-ringer, I am particularly grateful for our army of volunteers who share Christ’s salvation during our annual “Naples Christmas Celebration.” As the psalmist wrote, “They volunteer freely in the day of God’s power” (Psalm 110:3). Hundreds of people have been already working, whether it involves building a set for the Worship Center or for the Christmas Village, practicing musical notes, rehearsing drama lines, parking cars, ringing bells, or praying and inviting unsaved friends to come.
Some might think that we should never ask people to give up their time to volunteer. However, our people serve and work as their love gifts to God and the community. Many of them courageously assume new tasks while often feeling inadequate. Most give up precious family time to be a part of a vast team that seeks to present the message of Christmas to people who probably would never come to our church otherwise.Their work honors God and makes the rest of us proud to serve with them. As Acts 13:36 says about David, he “served the purposes of God in his generation.” David utilized his abilities, giving God the praise and preparing for a house of worship to be constructed.
Churchgoers park in the usual spot and sit on a favorite row, chatting with friends and listening to the message and the music, and then go home. That may be enjoyable but it is nothing like the adventure of rolling up your sleeves and helping get out the message in a way that is both fun and fulfilling. Even if retirement is not as rewarding as you thought, or making sales does not satisfy as you expected, or getting a bigger house and a cooler car does not provide thrills, you can be on mission with God. Frankly, I would rather be a participant on the team than just a spectator. Even if you are not one of the volunteers that I am celebrating, it is not too late to invite someone to the Christmas program. Who knows? You may be the one person that they will thank for all eternity for letting them hear “Good news of great joy that will be for all the people. That unto us is born...a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).