Imagine for a moment that you were responsible for organizing an awards ceremony to honor the greatest missionary in the history of mankind. And let’s pretend for a moment that even those missionaries who have passed away were able to come and walk the red carpet. I’m sure it would be amazing. Can you imagine John the Baptist? “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I can’t believe it but John the Baptist just showed up. Yes, I’ve just received confirmation it is John the Baptist. And it seems that he’s dressed to impress this evening: he’s wearing a camel hair ensemble, accented with a rugged leather belt and matching sandles. And oh, I see that for tonights ceremony he also decided to go with tangled hair and a beard matted with wild honey. John isn’t sparing any expense tonight folks. He’s even nibbling on an exotic locust as he walks the carpet. John, would you mind telling us who is the designer behind your wardrobe?” And as only John could say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” And then he walks off into the crowd. You can imagine it, can’t you?
But then the awards program begins and you have the impossible task of picking the world’s greatest missionary. Missionaries who gave their lives in the service of Christ by taking His gospel to the four corners of the globe. I mean you could go with John the Baptist, but you might want to start a little earlier. How about Jonah? Sure he didn’t have a great start to his missionary career, but through his ministry more than 120,000 people repented of their sins and turned to God. Oh, but you may disqualify him because of the temper tantrum he had after it was all over. No matter, there are other great ones to choose from. How about someone a little more modern? How about William Carey? He was the English missionary to India. He is considered the father of modern missions and founded the Baptist Missionary Society. But also in the running is Adoniram Judson. He was the first North American protestant missionary to Burma (now called Myanmar). By the time he died the Lord used him to establish 100 churches with 8,000 members. But you might want to consider Goerge Muller too. He started and ran orphanages that cared for over 10,000 children. Do you know how he feed, clothed and financially supported these children? He prayed in the money. He made a point never to ask man for help but to only ask God. If that’s not enough, he was also involved in world missions. Next we should probably consider Hudson Taylor. He spent 50 years as a missionary in China. He was one of the first missionaries to dress like the Chinese so that he could blend in and share the gospel with them. Many missionaries were called into missions because of Hudson Taylor’s work. Then we have Amy Carmichael who worked with orphans in India. We also have Jim Elliot and Nate Saint who were killed by the Waodani Indians in Ecuador. However, because of Nate Saint’s sister and the wives of the other men killed, eventually that unreached tribe came to faith in Christ. It’s a fairly impressive list of missionaries, but even this list doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.
In fact, I would say that as great as all of these missionaries may be they all fall woefully short of the greatest missionary of all time. The greatest missionary of all time was born in a stable. Although he came from a throne room, there was no room for Him in the inn, so they settled for a feeding trough as a cradle and a stable as a room. This missionary was a King, the Son of God, who left the throne of God, the perfection of heaven and emptied Himself of glory, glory that He alone deserved, to become man so that He might save His people from their sin. And so, this Christmas, we don’t celebrate a baby, we celebrate God who became man. We celebrate Immanuel, God with us. We celebrate the greatest missionary who ever walked the face of the earth.
And don’t you worry for one moment, because one day there will be an awards ceremony. A heavenly ceremony that will leave our earthly awards ceremony looking like an elementary school pageant. And in this awards ceremony the heavenly hosts will be present in all their beauty and glory. Their voices will join together and will radiate angelic praise for the Son of God. All those who believe in Christ will be present, too: John the Baptist, Jonah, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Amy Carmichael, your loved ones, all of them. And we will walk down the carpet towards the throne, take off our crowns and lay them at the feet of the greatest missionary of all times, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.
“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty- four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” Revelation 4:10-11.
This is what we celebrate on Christmas. He was born in a stable and has come and given us the greatest gifts we could ever ask for: a relationship with God, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, the love of Christ. So this Christmas don’t forget to celebrate your missionary, the baby born in a manger, Jesus Christ