What is the key to serving well this holiday season? It’s not getting beautiful dishes, keeping traditions, or even taking time at the local shelter, though all those things are valuable.
In the midst of the hustle and the guests and the joy and the crazy, we just need to go back to basics. The seasons may change, but the truth that we need to know and the ways God invites us to respond are unchanging.
So, rather than giving you a list of dos and don’ts for the holidays, I’m going to take you to Hebrews 5. This passage, while exalting Christ as our perfect high priest, gives us three key truths to know and three ways we can respond that will help us serve well in this, or any, season.
Three Truths to Know from Hebrews 5
1. You are called by God and have work from Him to do.
For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. . . . And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. (vv. 1, 4)
Now, before you say, I’m not a priest, where are you getting this?, check out this verse:
You [Christians] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
From God’s perspective, all believers in Christ are priests! Though this passage in Hebrews is specifically about the Jewish high priests, it applies to us as well as we serve God wherever He has placed us. By His marvelous grace, we have been chosen and made new creations in Christ to do good works, as Ephesians 2:10 tells us.
So, in whatever your hand finds to do in this season, see it as a calling from God—an opportunity to point people to Him as a priest would and as an opportunity to do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand” for you to do.
2. You are weak.
Every high priest . . . can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. (Heb. 5:1–2)
None of us like to think about the fact that we’re weak. Whether you’re weak toward a temptation or have a physical weakness or just a weakness for eating too many potato chips, it’s hard to admit. We don’t want to be seen as vulnerable. We don’t want to be defined by our liabilities but our assets.
Have you ever considered, though, that your liabilities can also be gifts? This verse tells us that the mark of a good high priest is that they can relate to the people they represent. They’re compassionate and approachable because they don’t see themselves as better or different than those they serve. Here are the facts: you will be much more effective in your serving, whether it’s carving turkey or leading a Bible study, if you see yourself rightly—as needy, just like everyone else, and unable to do it alone. God’s power is made perfect in your weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), not your strengths.
3. You need a sacrifice—Jesus.
Because of this [his weakness] he [every high priest] is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people. (Heb. 5:3)
Yes, you’re needy. You need a sacrifice for your sins, which are many. But here’s the good news: you have one. Jesus is your sacrifice. In love, He came down from heaven, became a man, and stepped into His place as your perfect high priest. You can’t serve in your own strength. All your righteousness is like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). But He, Jesus, our priest-king, is perfectly righteous and offers Himself and His perfection to you (Rom. 3:21–26).
Although He too was called by God and given work to do, Jesus is strong and in need of no sacrifice. He instead is our sacrifice. When you fail this holiday season, as you will, look to Jesus. Believe in Him. Believe the gospel—that He loves you and gave Himself for you. In Him, you have everything you need to serve well.
Three Ways to Respond from Hebrews 5
So, if all of these things are true, how do we serve? It’s simple really.
1. Let His Word teach you; don’t close your ears.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (vv. 11–14)
Listen to the Word. Read it. Immerse yourself in it. Listen to your pastor and teachers as they bring it to you. Then, do it. As you fill your mind with the Word of God, God will use it to direct you in how to serve. He will bring His commands to mind at the right times and help you remember His promises when you need courage to do something hard. When you have a decision to make, His Spirit will give you wisdom through the Word.
Even though it’s nearing Christmas and things are getting hectic, don’t neglect this basic discipline. It’s the one thing that will keep your heart oriented toward Him when other jingly, shiny voices and festive obligations are calling to you.
2. Obey, even when it’s hard.
Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (vv. 8–9)
Jesus, the Son of God, obeyed His Father during His time on earth. And we, being united to Him, are now children of God! So, we also have the opportunity to obey, as dear, beloved children. What a privilege! But also what an opportunity to suffer. Again, what an opportunity to become more like Him!
Obedience can be really hard. But it can also do so much to transform us into the image of Christ and to cause us to run to Him again and again for help. Those are gifts. So, as you serve in obedience to Him—and especially as it causes you to suffer during the holidays, remember Him and look for the ways He is shaping you.
3. Cry out to God honestly, but reverently—like a child.
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (v. 7)
Finally, don’t just read the Word and obey, cry out to God like Jesus did when it gets tough! He loves you. Your Father loves you. He hears you for the sake of Jesus. Tell Him about the hardships you experience as you serve Him, even with loud cries and tears if needed. Approach Him with reverence, yes, but approach Him with vulnerability. Don’t hide. He sees you, so be honest with Him about what He already knows. This is the way to gain His power (2 Cor. 12:9, remember?). Cry out to Him.
This holiday season, look continually to your King-Priest, Jesus. He loves you. He knows your weakness, and in Him, you have everything you need to serve Him and others. Ground yourself in His Word, obey it, and cry out to Him when obedience is hard.
Serving during the holidays is different, but everything that applies to the rest of the year stands firm. Believe His Word, and respond by doing what you know to do. He’ll take care of the rest.