My Personal Memories of Candy Canes at ChristmastimeDecember 4, 2017
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
— Matthew 28:19
Just as there are many ways to preach the Gospel, there is a diverse array of effective methods and strategies used to attract people to a place where they can hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. I told you yesterday how my mother was saved after attending a church service where candy was given to children and young people. I also remember our pastor promising 12-inch-long and 1-inch-thick peppermint candy-cane sticks to every child and youth who attended the annual special Christmas service at our church. The goal was to preach the Gospel, but the bait to get all of those people there was a huge candy-cane stick!
All of us kids in the church were so excited for that service when those 12-by-1-inch-thick candy canes would be distributed. In today’s society, this is probably not viewed the special treat that it was many decades ago. Today candy is available in overabundance. But when I was a young boy, it was still a real treat and something we looked forward to with great anticipation.
That particular service was always held on a Sunday night, and I can remember all the pews being packed with young children and youth. They had all come to the Christmas service — awaiting the moment when those huge, striped peppermint candy canes would be unpacked from big boxes and passed down the pews to each child and youth who eagerly awaited them. We weren’t allowed to open them in church, but as soon as the service was over and we were outside the building, we all raced to peel off the plastic covering on that striped candy cane to take our first lick!
I was a little different than the other kids in my approach. I barely pulled the plastic off the very top of my candy cane, exposing only the tip. And I was so excited to have that candy that I’d put mine in the freezer each year so it would last as long as possible. Once a day, I’d run to the freezer, take it out, and take a single fresh lick — then I’d wrap it back up and put it back into the freezer. I did my best to prolong this wonderful experience for as long as possible! One year I almost made my candy cane last until the next Christmas!
I also remember that each year at the special Christmas service, our pastor’s wife played Christmas carols on an antique pump organ that they assembled in the middle of our church platform. She played that old organ while our pastor led the church in singing Christmas carols. These songs always preceded the distribution of candy canes. Then the pastor would preach about the birth of Jesus — the real reason for Christmas — and give an altar call for people to come forward to surrender their lives to Jesus. Each year we would see a generous number of people walk the aisles to make that eternal decision. Only after that were the candy canes distributed. The candy was a big deal to the kids in the pews — but in truth, it was “bait” to attract lots of unsaved people to that service to hear the Good News of Jesus.
Those children and youth were attracted to church with the promise of a candy-cane stick, but they ended up in the family of God because the candy came with an opportunity to hear the Gospel message. As a result, the church grew, and Sunday school increased. But most importantly, people were born into the Kingdom of God — all because they came for the promised candy canes!
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The word “go” is the Greek word poreuthentes, a Greek word that portrays us being constantly on the go to make disciples of all men — and, of course, to ultimately baptize them “…in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” It is interesting that this verse doesn’t mention any specific techniques that we are to use in our pursuit of “going” to reach them. There are many ways to attract the lost to the best news in the whole world — the news that Jesus saves!
It’s possible for a person to be saved through a Gospel tract, a TV program, a personal testimony, or even through the offer of a peppermint candy cane. Carrying on this candy-cane tradition from my own childhood, our church in Russia offers packages of beautifully wrapped candy to children and youth each year at Russian Christmas — and it has the same effect today in Russia that it had on me as a small boy. And what is this effect? Not only do we see hundreds of children receive Christ as their Savior, but their parents, who are sitting in the adult service in the main auditorium, hear a Christmas message that is especially designed for them. Many of the parents who come are unsaved prior to attending our special Christmas services — and each year, our altar is filled with adults who come forward to repent and commit their lives to the Lord.
We must be serious about finding a way to bring the Good News to the lost. Jesus told us to be on the “go”— to be constantly in motion, trying to find ways to bring this glorious news to those who are in need.
So I want to ask you, what are you or your church doing this Christmas to attract people of all ages to the Gospel’s good news? Are you on the “go” as Jesus commanded us to be?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I ask You to help me be creative in the ways I introduce the message of Jesus to those who are unsaved. Help me think “outside the box” and plan new and creative ways to present this eternal message. I know people who need salvation, but I need to think of new ways to present the message to them. Lord, You are the ultimate creative force in the universe, so I ask You to release Your creativity in me and help me as I take this greatest message of all to those I love and am praying for to receive Christ.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and He empowers me with strength and creative ideas on how to present the message of Jesus Christ to my family, friends, and acquaintances. I have no excuse to say I am lacking ideas, because the greatest source of ideas lives inside me. So, Holy Spirit, I open myself to You — and I ask you to unleash Your creative flow to show me how to be on the “go” to take this saving message to those who are in need of it.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Like my mother, I was attracted to church at a very young age by the lure of candy. Have you thought about what you could offer children or young people that would make them attend a service where they will hear the saving message of Jesus Christ?
- Which individuals in your life are unsaved — whether children or adults — and need to hear the truth of the Gospel? What are you doing this year to make sure that each of these precious people knows the real message of the season?
- Who is on your prayer list to receive salvation this Christmas season? Have you made a prayer list of people who need to repent and surrender to Christ? Can you think of anything more wonderful that you could do than to pray for them to come to Jesus this year?