Monday, December 17, 2012

Starry Night

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas, but not in the traditional sense of the term. Carols about Jesus, nativity scenes and “Merry Christmas” greetings have been edged out of town hall and marketplace in favour of Santa and “Happy Holidays”. Since this has been a gradual process that mirrors the secularization of our culture, most people have adapted to the changes without too much protest. A segment of the Christian Church has bucked the trend, meeting with modest success in retaining a nativity scene here and there, but my sense is that the eventual outcome of this struggle has been decided.

It is understandable that Christians might be disappointed that this is happening. How will people know or care about Jesus if mangers and crosses aren’t there to remind them? Regardless of whether or not we think it is realistic to expect a largely secularized culture to embrace Christian observances, I don’t think we need to be anxious about this. It may be true that increasingly more people either cannot or will not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world, but I don’t know if hearing Christ-honouring carols in Starbucks is going to turn that tide.

The traditions and practices of the Church are a great encouragement to those of us who know God, so we continue to sing “O Holy Night” and place manger scenes on our mantelpieces. We remind each other of the great truths of our faith. We honour and glorify the Lord by celebrating what he’s doing for us and for the world. However it is not outward religious observance that leads unbelievers to discover their need for Christ. Ultimately, the Father draws them to the Son, who in turn resides in and amongst those who believe in him.

It’s a miracle, really, that the light of Christ shines through his followers - a God thing that defies rational understanding. As I contemplate this, a picture comes to mind. I see the world, awash with movement and activity, yet shrouded in darkness. People rush to and fro, bumping into each other, full of confusion. Dotted here and there are light beacons, similar to those that guide airplanes toward the airport at night. To me, that is a picture of spiritual reality. God, in his unsearchable wisdom, has chosen to place the glory of Jesus in the cradle of the Church. We aren’t perfect, but we reflect the light of Christ, like beacons guiding people home to the Father.

So, as the brightness of sacred carols and manger scenes in town squares and marketplaces dims, perhaps something even greater will come into focus. I might compare it to what happens at night, if we leave behind the artificial brightness of city lights and head out into the dark countryside. Oh my – see how many stars there are and how they twinkle so brightly without the competition of human-made illumination! Let it be so with God’s people, as we grow in the love and knowledge of Christ. May he reveal his presence among us to those who are walking in darkness.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. 
(Phil. 2: 14-15)

Merry Christmas, readers!
Photo Credits:
Manger scene:
Starry night:

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