Something strange happened to me last Sunday in church. I felt thoroughly moved by a Christmas carol! I’m talking brought to my knees and crying actual tears.
I am doing some quick math in my head to figure out how many times I’ve heard (consciously or unconsciously) the song “Oh Holy Night” in the past 24 years. I’ve heard it performed on radios, by Josh Groban, boys choirs, Celine Dion, talented cats on night shows…even I played it in a piano recital when I was 13…I think it must be at least 700 times.
What happened to me on Sunday? A realization, I suppose, of our current situation and what Christmas means to me.
While the sermon was excellent, the pastor ended on a very strange verse—Luke 2:18. It discusses the bloodshed of babies born in Bethlehem. He explained that today millions of babies are still being killed, youth are being gunned down in our cities, and mothers are crying, just like then. He’s right. After living in Bethlehem myself with Palestinian Arabs, I can testify that things are not yet “on earth as they are in heaven”.
We sing at Christmas in joyous exuberance at the realization that the darkness has had to flee. A loving Savior gave up Heaven to come be “God with us”. We sing “Long lay the world In sin and error pining, ‘Til He appear’d And the soul felt its worth.”
On Sunday, I realized that much of the world still lays pining for their Savior. Not every soul has felt its worth. According to statistics, there are over 6,000 unreached people groups in the world today. Oh Holy Night broke my heart. At that moment, Christmas, to me, meant both an overwhelming sense of thankfulness and a deep sense of urgency–for those in darkness to see His beauty as we can.
Have you ever bought a new bed, then wanted to go to bed at 5 PM just to be in it?
As you may recall, I direct a nonprofit in Kenya that cares for orphans and widows. These people are so poor that most had slept on floors with no mattresses. If not for a TFH member (who will remain unnamed) and her coworkers, 20 kids would not have upgraded to a mattress. That THRILL of hope is like the time you went from an “OK” mattress to a BRAND NEW ONE..times 100.
These kids and (mostly) grandmothers sing and talk about Jesus. They know that someday they’ll sit at the King’s table to eat, and will walk on streets that sparkle. Truly I think my friends in Nairobi are better off than some of my Boston friends who have beautiful homes and Harvard degrees, but no hope at all.
My tears were tears of anger. It made sense before for the world to be in darkness—they were awaiting a Savior who would bring the light to earth. Now it makes no sense. Why are there still people that are unreached? Joy to the world: The LORD HAS COME. Many friends and coworkers have never heard the real Gospel—only a skewed, weird, twisted version of Jesus that’s filled with untruths. The light came into the world, changing everything, right?
Jesus Christ: “Born that men no more may die” loves both the hopeless that live in darkness and the seemingly successful hopeless that make us forget they are in darkness. Let’s realize that when we sing songs of Christ coming, advent isn’t over. We are still living in a world that is pining.