It was in my mailbox again this year—a marvelously mysterious Christmas card from a remarkable businessperson. “But why?” I wonder every year.
Most of us feel the strenuous stress, the tug and the tension of these days. This year is no different. You have extra product to push out the door, additional tasks to conquer, reconnections to make with long-term clients, and hopefully a pleasant handful of new relationships to foster. You also have a wish list a mile long, still to conquer, plus the wrapping, maybe a batch of baking, school concerts, the extra-special church services (queue the child-shepherds, clad in bathrobes), as well as the parties to attend (and possibly one or two to host!), and—well, you know, on and on, ad infinitum. As of this morning, there are just nine days ‘til Christmas—so sorry to scare you.
I am still shaking my head over the card. “Where does she find the time to send it?”
We all have a lot to cram into the upcoming hours, and this thought arrests my psyche this morning. If I do not make the time, in all the busyness of my business, I might miss the fuller significance, the blessed connections, and the real joy. I’m struck again: What was the origin, the purpose—the deeper significance, the real business of Christmas?
A dusty Latin phrase sums it up. Missio dei. The mission of God. The babe of Christmas came and lived in light of his Father’s busy business. Whereas God certainly knows how to pause, to rest and reflect, he also seems very at-home with busyness. We first meet God in his story as an uber-creative, hard-working character (AKA, Creator, see Genesis, chapters 1-2). Across God’s story, he is constantly, intentionally planning and tangibly working out his redemptive plans. He’s busy. When he was a middle school kid, Jesus’ parents lost him in Jerusalem. (Yes, I know, how do you lose Jesus? A deep question to ask Mary and Joe, someday.) They finally found him, several days later, talking it up with the leaders in the Temple. Jesus’ response at his parents’ what were you thinking? is profound with intentionality. He replied, “Didn’t you know I would be busy with my Father’s business?” (my paraphrase; but see Luke 2:49, NKJV) When confronted about his Sabbath work, Jesus said, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (John 5:17 NLT) Years later, one of Jesus’ followers, an early leader in the movement, Saint John, penned these words. “The Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14 NIV) These words capture the Father’s intentional planning, the busyness of his business, and the full push of the missio dei.
Our mystery card comes from Renae, a phenomenal realtor in Marion, Iowa. She sold our first house for us in 1999, when we were trying to move back to the east coast for a new endeavor. I chuckle now. Renae made a grand windfall of a few hundred dollars on the deal, and she treated us like we were million dollar clients. Every year, we receive the hand-written, personalized Christmas card, and I shake my head in amazement. Call it smart real estate business (you never know whom I might refer her way). Yes, AND we should call it smart mission. She has not forgotten that God’s business places precious, life-changing connections with people right at the forefront!
So, I am compelled to slow down, breathe deep, and remember the WHY behind all of the busyness. I am struck with fresh gratitude for people with whom I can connect, the energy for creativity to produce, and the joyous opportunities to join God in his mission this season and into the New Year.
I pray you make the time to pause and remember the why of this season—and have a very missio Christmas!
C. Neal Johnson, Business As Mission: A Comprehensive Guide to Theory and Practice (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 28 and 49.