Are we “in the zone” yet? Less than three weeks until Christmas!
This year has been an interesting one, hasn’t it? And this Christmas also promises to be interesting as well! The ubiquitous questions are always there: Are you ready for it? Have you finished your shopping yet?
But this year is also filled with new queries like: How do you combine Christmas shopping, Christmas pageants, and Christmas dinner with pandemics and social distancing and masks and shields and the like?
But no matter what the difficulties may be, this is the time of year when people are consistently asking questions about why we celebrate this holiday. There seems to be an almost unanimous request, on the part of parents especially, to somehow quell the commercialism that seems to dominate this time of the year.
But also there is the antithetical effort to not only get rid of the commercialism in the holiday but also, and more importantly – I might add, there is the effort to restore to the Christmas holiday the real reason for the message.
Pithy slogans such as “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “Wise men still seek Him!” are the common epithets of the day for those who would desire to return to the real reason for celebrating Christmas!
Well, count me among those who enjoy the mystical “moods” of Christmas – the lights, the trees, the music, the gifts…, – oh, and did I mention the food?
All of these get the celebratory juices flowing in my veins! Chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost nipping all send those goosebumps rising every time!
But I am also very intent on emphasizing the real reason for this time of the year. And, to be quite honest about it all, the season has nothing – absolutely nothing — to do with toys and reindeer and jolly old elves in red suits.
It has everything to do with the sinfulness of man and the love of God and the need for a Savior.
We read in the Gospel of John that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5)
These words were written in reference to Jesus Christ – not Abraham or Moses or Mohammed or any other leader of any other religion. Jesus came to bring light to a dark world – THAT is the message of Christmas!
Some years ago, the Associated Press reported a story about a little town in Europe. This story caught my attention primarily because it was about a small town, but also because it has a great parallel to this time of the year.
The little village of Rattenberg is the smallest town in Austria, and getting smaller each year. The town has lost 20 percent of its population in the past two decades, and as of 2011 had only 405 residents.
The reason? Darkness. Rattenberg is nestled behind Rat Mountain—a 3,000-foot obstruction that blocks out the sun from November to February.
But thanks to some clever new technology, back in 2005, the town’s situation was about to get a little brighter. An Austrian company called Bartenbach Lichtlabor developed a plan to bring sunshine into the darkness by installing 30 rotating heliostat mirrors onto the mountainside. The mirrors were designed to grab light from reflectors on the sunny-side of the mountain and shine it back into the town.
The project was not cheap — the European Union had planned to cover half of the $2.4 million bill. If successful, this project was designed to bring hope to the 60 other communities scattered throughout the Alps that endure the winter darkness each year.
Markus Peskoller, Lichtlabor’s director, also committed to paying for the $600,000 cost of planning the project because of its potential for other markets. “I am sure we will soon help other mountain villages see the light,” he said.
In the same way, we celebrate Christmas as the time when God sent his own light into our world, through Jesus, and offered relief from the darkness of our sin. And Christians all over the world who have experienced that forgiveness are called to reflect his light to those who still need it.
My friends, one of the main reasons we celebrate Christmas every year is because there are so many who have not yet seen His light. And He wants you to know just how much it has cost Him to show you that light.
The Alpine light project was a valiant attempt to bring light into a dark valley. For some unknown reason, that project was never implemented, and the small town of Rattenberg, Austria is still a small town and getting smaller and still struggles with getting enough light during those dark winter months.
But if you have trusted in Christ alone for your eternal destiny, you have all the Light that you need – for all eternity!
God so desperately wants you to see the light that he has invested a whole lot more than the European community in their Austrian mirrors! I repeat: Jesus came to bring Light to a dark world! THAT is the message of Christmas!
The only question remaining is: Are you walking in the light, as He is in the light?
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.