Not one, not even one radio station in this large, sprawling town of Kumasi, was playing Christmas music on Tuesday, this week, when I took many of our mission team shopping – don’t think American malls or stores! – for Christmas. (There are about 12 FM stations.) I kept trying them, and finally found only one song. The rest were hip-hop, old American hits from the 90s, and local African stuff. It did make me sad. Ghana likes to consider herself a “Christian” nation, or at least it used to do so. It just reminded me of how thin a veneer are the Christian values society holds, and how loosely.Paganism is always there, always bubbling beneath the surface, ready to explode into the open. So also it is true in America. Just consider how many things about Christmas have no basis in the Bible, including the date.
But this is no anti-Christmas diatribe, I do want us to consider what the world would be like without Christ’s amazing entrance. What a story! If it wasn’t true, it would seem unbelievable. Virgin birth! Unique star! Three wise men! Shepherds and angel choirs in the sky! Come on, Hollywood couldn’t have dreamed up a better script to gain and hold the audience’s interest. But it all really happened… exactly as told by Matthew and Luke. Every little detail: Tribe of Judah, House of David, City of Bethlehem, Virgin Mary. God really knew how to write, produce and present the most glorious birth of His only Son in a spectacular way.
The ripple effect of this Christmas story on mankind is beyond calculation. It certainly reveals a God who deeply loves and very, very carefully planned for the salvation of His lost children…us. Such painstaking attention to every little detail, proved by the completely accurate backdrop – the precision prophecies detailing the time, place and manner of His birth. What planning and concern, revealing the amazing, great heart of God! Jesus’ birth was a graphic 3D message from heaven that couldn’t be ignored… and it wasn’t! (All new babies are always hard to ignore!) Consider this: the entire world is still, for the most part, under the dating system centered around Jesus’ birth. This is 2012 A.D coming up. (Please don’t fret the details here, I know that Bishop Usher was a bit off, but my point still holds water.) From Communist China to Hindu India to Islamic Saudi Arabia, this date cannot just be ignored. Every tongue will surely one day confess that Jesus is Lord, and to some extent, Christmas is a preview of that day.
So, without dispute, a Christless world is unimaginable. Brutal, tyrannical leaders without conscience, like Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and others would wield power without restraint. There would be darkness covering the face of the earth as in the days of Noah. Life as we know it, with the freedoms that we now enjoy – albeit always under attack – would not exist. Christ’s entrance brought incredible blessings to mankind that only long and careful consideration would reveal. Just take the way Christianity shaped the forming of America’s new government as one example. Or the first printing press of Gutenberg, producing a Bible, which has continued to be, by far, the most commonly printed book of all time.
So do you understand, this Christmas eve, in the year of our Lord 2011, that the only hope, the ony One who can bring people out of the pagan darkness that this entire world still lies under, is Jesus Christ our Lord? And that we, His body, His bride, His holy church, are also the only possible way that they will see Him as He really is the Light of the World? So are you prepared to shine brighter, to glow with all the brillance of a Spirit-filled Christian who reflects the Light around you? That is the real theme of Christmas. Each one of us is a missionaary to those among whom God has strategically placed us for such a time as this, even as Esther was put in the pagan Persian court of Ahasuerus in 470 B.C by a strange chain of events, over which she had absolutely no control. Similarly, God puts each one of in the Body exactly where we should be, and expects us to shine, brightening whatever corner in which we are placed. Just like many of us placed Christmas light this season to celebrate and communicate something essential about light overcoming darkness.
Yes, whatever the pagan world we live in, whether Ghana, West Africa, or someplace else, grants us opportunity to shine for Jesus. The darker the spiritual darkness, the brighter we can shine! (Phil.2:14; Daniel 12:3) Diamonds show better against a black velvet backdrop. Don’t despair at the ever increasing paganism in this world, the anti-Christian spirit at work. We knew it would, and has to be, that way.
So we now understand that the world would be such an awful place without the birth of Christ, in major mega-trend, large scale way. But do you understand how your own small part of the world would be much darker without you, without Christ living within you through His own Holy Spirit? You are Christ to your world! What would your world be like without you, without your leaving influence mitigating much evil and promoting much good through your good deeds and Christlike example? Or is it not? If so, why? O Christian, shine, shine, shine while there is still time. (Consider the classic Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life.) We touch so many lives, generationally, like ripples in a pond from the one tossed-in stone.
I could go on, but there is a wedding tommorrow to perform, Lord’s Day messages to prepare, and you have things to do also. I do hope that you will read and ponder this Christmas devotional from one who lives on the what has been called, the Dark Continent. We won’t have a White Christmas, with temps hitting in the nineties daily. Harmattan haze (Sahara dust and smoke from thousands of charcoal cooking fires) fill the air. No Jack Frost, pine trees or such. But we do have the Morning Star, Jesus Christ, shining in our hearts, and we can also shine in Africa. Shine, like incadescent Christmas lights on a tree, by sharing the real reason for the season with all the many opportunities that this special time provides.
Love, Joy and Peace in Jesus Christ our Lord & King,
And a Very Merry Christmas to All!