The Open Door: Lottie Moon’s place at Christmas

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People gather to pray during a Sunday service at a church plant that meets in a pediatrician’s office in Japan. IMB missionaries Jared and Tara Jones – beneficiaries of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering – partnered with their pediatrician to help start the church, which they pray will be a lighthouse to the community for generations to come.

As much a part of Christmas as the Christmas tree, gifts, Christmas carols, special programs of Christmas music, and delightful times around the dinner table with family and friends, is the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. I found very interesting an article on the IMB website written by David J. Brady, pastor of Christ Community Church, a Southern Baptist church in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He was born the son of Southern Baptist missionaries in Guyana and raised in Belize.

In his article, Brady speaks to the reason the Lottie Moon Offering is received in the Christmas season. Lottie’s life began on December 12, 1840 and ended 72 years later on Christmas Eve 1912. This was not the only reason for the time of the offering emphasis, however.

Actually, to be candid, Southern Baptists learned from the Methodists and the influence has had lasting and remarkable impact. While reading the minutes of the Southern Methodist Woman’s Missionary Board, Lottie was deeply impressed that the Methodist women gave $6,000 to missions over the course of the previous year. These Methodist women set aside the week before Christmas to pray for missions and to deny their own personal wants and needs in order to raise support for missions.

Lottie used the example of these godly Methodist women to encourage Southern Baptist women to do the same. She wrote: “Doesn’t this put us Baptist women to shame?” She then gave the rationale for receiving the special offering for missions at Christmas:

Is not “the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?”

Her letter was published in America in December of 1887. It was a glorious idea which may have never become reality except for the amazing efforts of Annie Armstrong, the leader of the new Woman’s Missionary Union. Annie worked diligently throughout 1888 toward the initial receipt of the special offering for Foreign Missions. She wrote, by hand, 1,000 letters to promote the offering. She also sent out 30,000 offering envelopes and thousands of supporting materials.

That very first offering received during the Christmas season 1888 totaled $3,313.25. I am confident that neither Lottie nor Annie could have imagined the future success of the offering and how God would use the faithfulness of Southern Baptists to spread the Gospel worldwide through the receipts of this offering.

At first, the offering was used to help Miss Moon with her work in China and was known as “The Christmas Offering for China.” Gradually, the offering was used to support work on other mission fields. Lottie’s death on Christmas Eve 1912 made the Christmas offering’s connection to Lottie Moon even more meaningful. In 1918, Annie Armstrong said, “It was Miss Moon who suggested the Christmas offering for foreign missions. She showed us the way in so many things. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to name the offering in her memory?” Southern Baptist women loved the idea and Lottie Moon’s name was permanently affixed to the offering.

Did you know that Lottie Moon was a Georgia Baptist? She was. And for this, and so many other wonderful reasons, Georgia Baptists should lead the way in the generous support of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.

Of course, the greatest reason is that God gave His Son, Jesus, as our greatest gift. We can never get over that fact, and it should result in our unending desire to tell the Good News to all the world.

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