GREAT JOY FOR ALL

“I feel like preaching this morning, first, because God has called me to preach and, second, because God has given me a message.” She stood tall, though she was not so tall; she stood sure-footed, though the crowd assembled before her was vast and intimidating. Still, her voice was steady and commanded the room.

“For quite a long while, my way has been hedged up so that I could see no way open to preach the gospel. Satan hindered Paul, and he has hindered me. I felt such a desire to work for Jesus, and was so burdened over my circumstances, that I scarcely knew what to do. I finally made this decision: though I am a woman, and my circumstances are peculiar, by the grace of God I will preach the gospel…I am not anxious to get in the pulpit; yet I am willing to do that, but I especially love to work privately with the oppressed and downcast.”

She held up her Bible and opened it, as a hush fell across the multitude. Every eye was fixed upon her. Her strength, her story, her ambition, her commitment to making Jesus the subject of her life—her reputation—had preceded her. “For our lesson this morning, we shall read part of the 60th chapter of Isaiah. ‘Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.’ Verse 1.”

“When Jesus left this earth, he bequeathed us his glory, and the devil has never been able to stamp it out of existence…Have you learned what God’s purpose is? When Jesus was in the world, he saved as many as would believe on him. Now he has departed, and his work has become our work; his purpose is our purpose—to save the world. The devil also has a purpose—to destroy the world. The first prayer and purpose of a new-born soul is for the salvation of a neighbor, a friend, a brother. The devil’s purpose is to destroy the zeal of God’s people, and to make them feel at ease while souls are sinking all around them.”

It was June 9, 1913. Her name was Nora Hunter, then a young pastor from Indiana, invited to speak at the eighth camp meeting and convention of the Church of God held in Anderson. Nora Hunter would become one of the Movement’s most influential voices. Her passion for a global Movement, taking back what hell has stolen, redeeming souls, caring for the “oppressed and downcast,” and proclaiming the unity of God’s people, had few peers.

“We can be in unity in name, embrace the same doctrines, and yet not be in the unity of the Spirit. Powerful as God is, he cannot save the world through a divided church. We must stand in unity; we do stand in unity. Is that too strong? No! There may be some dear souls who are not in unity of doctrine, but if they keep submitted to God, and stand in the unity of the Spirit, unity in doctrine will be the inevitable. The church is not only one in name and doctrine, but she is a unit to practice unity, to demonstrate unity to the world. It cost the life of Jesus to destroy division and to introduce heart unity into the world. It may cost you and me something to keep this sacred unity. It may cost us some bitter tears, some agonizing before God to get self, personal opinions, and ideas submitted, for we are exhorted to ‘endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’”

To these ends, she founded the Women’s Missionary Society (now called Christian Women Connection—CWC) in 1932. That same year (on September 1), she penned a note to the new treasurer of the new society (Frances Tallen), instructing her to “release the sum of fifty dollars to the Missionary Board of the Church of God to be used for missions.” It was her first order as president of the Missionary Society. All across the country (and the world), she rallied women to bravely step up and step out, embracing their calling to preach the gospel and change the world; she dared men to do the same. She inspired thousands to organize themselves in local churches, focusing whole congregations on the world beyond their front doors, calling them to achieve greatness by circumnavigating the globe with the “light and life that Jesus brings.” She was all about reflecting “His glory” in the Church of God.

christs-birthdayIn 1949, Nora Hunter helped launch the Christ’s Birthday Observance and Offering (CBO). It was designed to do three things: (1) focus Christmas on Christ, (2) practically unite the church in common gospel purpose, and (3) call for resources to propel Christian ministry worldwide, placing Jesus on everyone’s Christmas list.

This Christmas, just now weeks away, the Church of God has the chance to pull together, once more (and for the 70th consecutive year) by embracing the CBO. Christian Women Connection has produced devotional, promotional, and teaching materials (including sermon starters, daily meditations, and more) to help you and your congregation get on board. The theme this year is drawn straight from the Christmas story in Luke 2: “Great Joy for All.”

The CBO offering—a once-in-a-year ask in the Church of God, from coast-to-coast—plays a foundational role across the Movement globally. It funds the platform that makes possible the fielding of Church of God missionaries on every continent; it undergirds CWC’s many ministries to empower women of all ages; it feeds the hungry, provides relief to the needy, and makes things like the ChoG TraffickLight (combating the scourge of sex trafficking at home and abroad) possible. It supports our four Church of God universities in the United States. It breathes life into the global media and broadcast reach of Christians Broadcasting Hope (in English, Spanish, French, Swahili, Portuguese, Hindi, Oriya, Creole, and Arabic). It makes the International Youth Convention and our national and regional conventions possible. Without the foundational funding of the CBO, none of the above can be sustained—even with the other designated gifts and registrations we receive through the year. In a Movement in which there are no dues, no assessments, no income streams apart from the voluntary gifts of its churches and friends in the United States and Canada, the CBO gives life so that the Movement can, together, give life, across the world.

This Christmas, make the CBO a part of your local church’s passion. If you’re a pastor, get on board. If you’re not a pastor, get your pastor on board. Check out the CBO materials at CWC’s webpage: http://www.christianwomenconnection.org/christs-birthday-observance.html and order now; you still have time. Dive into the whole Advent series of studies, devotionals, and teaching, and then take up the offering. Or, just take up the offering, if your devotional and teaching plan is already otherwise set. But, in either case, don’t miss this chance to help your congregation know it is a part of something vast, wonderful, and life-giving this Christmas. Let your congregation know it is a part of the Church of God, where Jesus is, indeed, the subject.

Do it for heaven’s sake. Do it to strengthen the work and our Movement. Do it for Nora Hunter. Do it for the thousands around the world who literally depend on how we respond. Today, as when she spoke these words in 1913, Sister Hunter’s call still rings true: “Let us not lose sight of God’s purpose—the salvation of the world…Let us tarry before God and pray much. Prayer and faith will move mountains. Let us be diligent to fulfill God’s glorious purpose in every detail.” And, oh yes, Nora would say, “give, too.” To the Christ’s Birthday Observance and Offering.

شكرا وعيد ميلاد سعيد!  धंयवाद और मेरी क्रिसमस! Obrigado e feliz Natal! All say: “Thanks and Merry Christmas!” in Arabic, Hindi, and Portuguese: three of the many languages your CBO gifts will empower to speak for the gospel in the year to come.

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