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Missions 101

A Christmas Meditation

Dec. 24, 2012By: Michael Littell

Christmas confronts us with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s burning question as we reflect upon the birth of Christ: “Who is Christ for us today?” In the second chapter of Luke, an angel appears to three shepherds and heralds the arrival of the Messiah. In verse 12 the angel announces to the shepherds, “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

I think the most surprising part about the story is not that an angel visited men, but the force of the angel’s statement. How will the shepherds know that they have found the place where God has arrived on earth? They will know it when they see a poor baby lying in the midst of animals in a small barn. God’s triumphal salvation is confirmed not by purple robes and flashes of fire, but by the sign of poverty, homelessness, and oppression. Even today, this sign is still an offense to us Christians.

The reason I love the ministry of TLI is because we work with those who dwell in the shadows of poverty, homelessness, and oppression. For many of the pastors we train, it is too dangerous even to put photographs up on our website, and even among those that do have photographs, most of them must be given pseudonyms for their protection. In this way, the men we train are very unlike us. They cannot be known lest they risk torture, imprisonment, and disaster for themselves and their families. They can only be known as Christ himself was known to us: as impoverished preachers in the perilous business of announcing the love of Christ and the kingdom of God on earth.

I think of my friend Amsula (pseudonym), a Sudanese refugee in Athens. This man has not had a place to lay his head for over two years. He carves out a meager living by translating and odd jobs, and all that he has goes to his wife and children whom he is still trying to bring out of Egypt. Yet he has seen miracles from God, preached the gospel countless times to thirsty souls, and drunk deeply from the unfathomable love of Chirst.

When I reflect on this question, “Who is Christ for us today?” it occurs to me that Amsula is acting as Christ for many: he bears the shame of the crucified God, shines the light of Jesus Christ into the shadows of the world, and lives on the manna of his heavenly Father at each step of his life. This is why I love TLI. Because our pastors are the least known, and are making Christ the most known. But most of all, I love TLI because these men help me love and see Christ in ways that I have not before.

You can take the opportunity this season to become engaged in the life of a pastor like Amsula by sponsoring one of the pastors at our website.  

Just go to to meet hundreds of pastors serving the Kingdom in bond of Christ.


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