With all the hoopla about Starbucks and holiday cups, and the new Lord’s Prayer ad being banned by cinemas from showing before the new Star Wars movie, it feels like there is increasing pressure to take Christ out of Christmas.
As Christians in the workplace, it can have the affect of making us even more defensive about our faith at a time of year when we should be celebrating our faith.
However, there are some ways we can look at being a Christian at work, which can help us reframe, to feel more positive about who we are, and help us glorify God at this time of year.
Let us look at six different frames of reference that I apply to living out our faith at work. These frames were inspired by the work of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard at Renovaré (www.renovare.org), seeing Jesus as a complete vision of God, and seeking to live a Word-centred, sacramental, virtuous, prayer-filled, compassionate and Spirit-empowered working life.
Frame 1: Work and the Word. Key concept: being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13-16). For people keen to promote biblical truth and make the most of evangelistic opportunities, Christmas does offer lots of natural moments. First of all, look for a way of telling the Christmas story in a natural way. Biblical storytelling is growing popular as a technique for deconstructing the Christian message in everyday language. For an example of a conversational historical discussion of the Christmas story, check out this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbspPt_37aU (while changing the cultural references from George Washington!). Maybe invite people to find out what all the fuss of Christmas is about at your church; or invite everyone to the local Carols in the Park.
Frame 2: God the Worker through Me. Key concept: living out the word of God as flesh (John 1:14). For those who have an incarnational approach to seeing their role at work, then this is a time to live out the themes of the Christmas story: peace, goodwill, giving… What can you do to make your workplace a more peaceful place: is there someone you can reconcile with, naming Christmas as your motivation? How can you promote good, hold back what is bad? How can you be generous in your giving: of gifts, or of time, or of yourself?
Frame 3: Holy Working. Key concept: living a pure work life (Matthew 5:48). For people who see their primary role at work as working in a virtuous way, then Christmas is a great time for exemplifying excellent work. It is also a time when God can shape you, developing your patience, and joy and kindness. Write Christmas cards to your colleagues, with a message that recognises the positive values you see in them.
Frame 4: Working in God’s Presence. Key concept: praying continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). For those who are dedicated to prayer, then Christmas is a special time of thanksgiving, and worship, and reflection. An advent series can help to reframe your thinking from the commercialisation and busyness of Christmas. For work colleagues going through hard times, Christmas more than any other time of year, is a time to feel emboldened to ask them if they would like you to pray for them.
Frame 5: Working for Justice. Key concept: seeking truth and justice (James 2:8-11). For people who see themselves as promoting God’s justice in and through their working, then Christmas is a natural time to point to Jesus’ coming as heralding a new era of peace and justice. One way to do this is by buying gifts for people at work that promote justice elsewhere: a goat, education supplies, water sanitation… Maybe there are some people in your office who are lonely at this time of year, who you can invite to join your Christmas celebrations.
Frame 6: Empowered to Work. Key concept: gifted to be kingdom workers (2 Timothy 1:6-8). For those who are conscious of God’s Spirit, Christmas is a time of praying for opportunities to speak, to serve and cooperate with God in transforming your workplace. Ask that your spiritual gift might have a special expression in the workplace, whether it be leadership, generosity, prophecy or teaching.
There are some ideas that cross over many of these frames. My favourite example is Iris, who joined the social committee of her organisation. When they were organising the Christmas party, she asked if the choir from her church could come and sing some carols as part of the entertainment. Her workmates thought that would be really nice. She then offered the services of her church choir to wait on the tables after singing.
On the eve of the party, three carols were chosen that with pithy introductions explained the Christmas story. Then the church members served the food, and had ample opportunity to chat and explain why they were willing to give their time to help out.
Looking at this idea from our frame perspectives. Iris covered Frame 1: sharing openly about the truth of Christmas; with Frame 2: an incarnational demonstration of service; with Frame 3: demonstrating virtuous character; with Frame 5: promoting community; with Frame 6: using gifts of singing.
One further tip: Iris actually promised her work that her church would do all this BEFORE she told her church what she was planning. I suggest that while this was an effective strategy, it would be better for your church to embrace this as a missional opportunity.
Image: “Nativity tree2011” by Jeff Weese – Flickr: Nativity. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nativity_tree2011.jpg#/media/File:Nativity_tree2011.jpg