Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in the world. It’s celebrated in more than 160 countries, including many places that are not actually Christian. In fact, the tying of Christmas to secular traditions such as stockings, reindeer, and Christmas trees is one of the reasons that some Christians raise an alarm about “the war on Christmas” and the need to put Christ back into it.
The truth is that we are living in what many call a post-Christian era, one in which a Christian worldview is no longer at the forefront of public affairs and societal norms. Instead, even in places where Christianity has previously flourished, we now see alternative worldviews such as secularism or nationalism taking the primary role.
Although one might be tempted to despair at this situation and doubt our ability as a church to effect change in a new direction, there is another choice.
In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7).
Paul then goes on to recount how he was selected by God, suffered persecution, endured significant interpersonal conflicts, and persevered to spread God’s Word. Our present neighborhoods and communities might be difficult places in which to be overtly Christian, but for most of us, our present environments are nothing compared to the experience of the early church.
Stories about the spread of Christian ministry in tough places in a pre-Christian world should give us hope that God will continue to work through us to reach others and change lives.
As I think of the many ways in which we all participate in God’s ministry, I’m reminded of a story about a group of bricklayers. When the first is asked what he is doing, he responds, “I am moving bricks.” The second responds, “I’m building a wall.” But the third bricklayer, with great pride and obvious enthusiasm, responds, “I’m building a cathedral.”
May we hold God’s grand vision in mind as we do our work and remember that the cathedral we are building is one held together in Christ—the one who came to us as a child in a manger, becoming like us so he could atone for all our sins. May God bless our work abundantly as we faithfully follow him!