“I never discuss anything else except politics and religion,” the inimitable G. K. Chesterton once remarked. “There is nothing else to discuss.”
But when you’re heading home for the holidays to visit family members and friends who you rarely see in person, I have some simple advice.
Specifically, don’t try to cover both of these areas. We’re living in such polarized times that you’ll likely need to choose to discuss one or the other. If you start with politics, your strong views for/against the current resident of the White House (or the previous one), your strong feelings for/against vaccinations, or for/against wearing masks, will lead to finding yourself in a conversational cul-de-sac from which it will be hard to escape. And, in the end, what will really be gained?
My recommendation? Talk about religion instead.
Why? Because in the age of COVID the spiritual is suddenly relevant again. Sickness, death, and rumors of more sickness and death are all around us. Almost everyone knows someone who’s been gravely affected. Many have suffered the unspeakable loss of a loved one and the pain is still palpable.
As a result, there’s a lot of sorrow, worry, and free-floating fear throughout our society. But this also helps us start thinking again about who we are, why we’re here, and what really matters in this life — and the next one. It compels us to seek, knock, and ask lots of questions.
Thankfully Jesus promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
That’s encouraging, yet the truth is that as we slide into this holiday season, many of us feel too tired to seriously ask, seek, or knock. If that’s you, thankfully the one whom we celebrate this season offers other compassionate words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30).
Do you know anyone who feels weary, burdened, and in need of spiritual rest? You, perhaps?
These are things we need to calmly discuss this Christmas season — not debating theological nuances or denominational differences, but looking to the baby in the manger who was, in reality, the Prince of Peace and the Savior of the World. We need to figure out ways to really ask, seek, and knock — until we genuinely find him and all he offers us.
“Your friends are more interested in these matters than you think they are,” I explain in my new book, Contagious Faith. “I know you might find that hard to believe, yet it’s true. People don’t tend to let on how much they think about such things. For many folks, it’s a frequent source of questions and concern. So take a risk, initiate spiritual conversations, ask questions — and often you’ll be surprised at how positively people respond.”
As the angels announced to the shepherds on that wondrous night before the first Christmas, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
That angelic announcement also came with an implicit assignment. “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child,” we’re told a few verses later. And, the report adds, “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished…” (verses 17-18).
Don’t let this Christmas season pass you by without gently and winsomely telling others. There is a Savior. His name is Jesus. And he wants to give you spiritual rest.
Mark Mittelberg is the author of the new book and course, Contagious Faith (Zondervan, 2021), and he is the Executive Director of the Lee Strobel Center at Colorado Christian University (StrobelCenter.com)