As I’ve often joked, when I was a child, one of my favourite hymns was “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”, and now I’ve grown up – I am one! [The trouble is, some benighted people don’t agree!!]
One thing is for certain: it shows that singing drivel is not confined to modern Christian songs. And yet there is a valid principle behind the corny words. God does want us to shine like lights in a dark world.
Winter in Northern Europe is a dark time with short days and long cold nights. When the Christmas celebrations are over, many people console themselves in escapist fashion by looking forward to summer holidays. But there’s still a lot of doom and gloom about.
We Christians are called to be different: like light is in darkness. Epiphany refers to the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (the magi) and the theme of light pervades this festival. As Christians we are not called to escapism but to shining in the darkness. And, as usual, the training ground for showing this attitude in the world is the church.
How about you? Do people feel uplifted and encouraged by meeting you or spending time with you? Do you reach out warmly to them; emphasise the bright side (particularly the presence of God) and perhaps make them smile. Humour is a great gift of God and I think I’d be totally crazy by now if I didn’t have a highly-developed sense of humour.
Sadly a small minority of Christians feel called to be old miseries. Nothing suits them. They could snatch defeat out of total victory and misery out of bliss. They delight to find fault. I was going to say they’re only happy if they grumbling, but they’re not happy even then.
Some of these dear folk absorb negativity more effectively than blotting paper absorbs ink. They join in a fellowship of gloom. This is wrong; that’s wrong; the other’s wrong. In fact, everything’s wrong, other than themselves. The effect of this contagious disease is so subtle that it is sometimes mistaken for “discernment”.
Also there are a few old gossips who main-line on the latest tit-bit of judgmental gossip and feel a glow of self-righteousness as they run down other people behind their backs. Negative gossip does so much damage to a church that the Bible condemns it severely. And I’ve declared war on it.
A few others never get beyond the prison of their own needs, problems and hurts. I’m not talking about those who genuinely need help for a time of particular difficulty. Some of the genuinely most needy Christians shine brightly. But there are those who seem to thrive on constantly being helped but never seem to advance in any way. They don’t realise that their prison door is not locked. They can walk out with Jesus any time they choose.
Let’s all eradicate such attitudes and to determine together to follow Jesus’ great evangelistic command: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16). The church is meant to be a beacon shining out into the darkness and attracting people because it is different from the world. Let’s go for it!
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction