Embrace Anticipation This Christmas Season

Dr. Nicole Martin, Chief Impact Officer at Christianity Today, shares about unique opportunities she has as a Christian at Christmas time, and why all Christians should remember and embrace the anticipation of the gift at Christmas.

You can listen to this conversation with Nicole on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

What are some unique opportunities at Christmas time that you’ve had as a Christian to impact those around you? 

One thing that I have really appreciated around Christmas time is getting into liturgical practices. I’m from more of a non-denominational/Baptist/charismatic background, and the idea of a call-and-response prayer is not very common. But Christmas does allow us to really get into liturgy. There was a moment when I was in seminary and attending a Methodist church at the time. The Minister of Music did a whole seminar on Christmas music and how there’s an edge of lament to most of the Christmas music performed in the church. This music is played in minor keys because there’s a sense of anticipation, longing, sorrow, and a bit of mourning. 

How I engage in music and in liturgy has become very important to me and helps me and those around me draw closer to Christ. I also make a point to help serve a Christmas meal at a homeless shelter, take part in clothing drives, and finding ways to bless children at Christmas. But the core of everything I do at Christmas is based in a liturgical practice that gets me back into the discipline that Christmas is about waiting. It’s not just about the glorious gift; it is the anticipation of that gift.  

The first piece of what Christmas means to you is ‘presence.’ Can you share more about why this helps define Christmas for you personally?

The core of our Christian faith is that Christ died for us, but the lead up to His death and His resurrection is the fact that He was born among us. The idea of Emmanuel, God with us, is the one central thing that carries us through our most difficult and darkest hours. To me, Christmas means acknowledging and studying the presence of God, the nearness of God, the proximity of God. This nearness or presence is a distinct New Testament feature, as well, because in the Old Testament, God is distant. People have to cover their faces in order to seek God. Moses is reminded in Exodus that ‘no man can seek God and live.’ 

But then we turn to the birth of Jesus, and now the presence of God is near. When I was at my lowest moments in life, just knowing that God was Emmanuel for me was enough in that moment. What is the best thing we can do for others? Be present with them. So during this time when Christ came to be close to us, I encourage you to take the intentional time to be close to others, which is easier said than done! It’s not always easy being close to people and it certainly wasn’t easy for God to be close to us, and yet, that closeness is a necessary part of what it means to be a disciple. 

Reverend Doctor Nicole Massie Martin was born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a triple major in Human and Organizational Development, Educational Studies, and French. Dr. Martin received her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned a Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with an emphasis on African American Redemptive Leadership.

Dr. Martin serves as the Chief Impact Officer at Christianity Today. She is the founder and Executive Director of Soulfire International Ministries, which accelerates thriving for pastors, churches, and younger leaders. She is also active in her local congregation in Maryland at Kingdom Fellowship AME Church where she supports the Discipleship Ministry.

Dr. Martin is a gifted writer and author of Made to Lead: Empowering Women for Ministry and Leaning In, Letting Go: A Lenten Devotional. She serves on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals and has been inducted into the esteemed Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.

Dr. Martin is married to her best friend, Dr. Mark Martin, and they have two amazing daughters, Addison and Josephine.