Points to Ponder Christmas: Recorded in Front of a Live Audience
by Pastor Dennis Whitmore
Imagine yourself sitting down in front of the TV to watch a special program that you have heard is really great. You have heard the reviewers describe how the star of the program totally changes the life of those who have come to know him. So you watch the opening credits and the show is on. But, it begins in a strange way.
The camera is focused on the studio audience, not the stage, if there is one. All through the program you hear a soft but authoritative voice speaking. Sometimes there are thought-provoking stories; other times the voice teaches deep points of wisdom and convicting statements about life and living. Soft, yet firm; gentle, yet strong. You can only hear him if you try to listen. Any distraction, even if it is a fleeting thought on another topic seems to block your hearing, as if someone turned down the volume.
But all along, the camera focuses your eye on the audience. You watch the people who are supposed to be there to watch the star of the show. What a strange program - you watch the audience as THEY view and follow the program. You have to wonder how the reviewers and critics made any kind of judgment on the quality of this program or its star when all one can see is the studio audience. Maybe some of them were part of that audience, so they actually experienced the program. Others must have interviewed and recorded the testimonies of people who had been in that audience. How else could they know how great that program or it’s star was unless they knew first hand? How else could they know first hand unless someone from the audience, some witness of this great person, had told the story and sparked their interest to check him out for themselves.
Two thousand years ago a Star was born, a new “program” came on for all the world to see. God, our Creator, entered the creation itself by being born into the human family (John 1:1-5, 14). The Star’s name is Jesus, and in Him is “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9-10) The “program” He brought into the world for all of us to see (Acts 17:26-27) is the gospel, the “good news” (John 3:16-18). However, even as I write these words, I feel the resistance or distaste for the message they convey. A lot of people have heard about this program and some know a little bit about its Star, but it has no appeal to them. Some are angry over some experience they have had with regard to the gospel or Jesus. Why?
As my opening parable of sorts reminds us: the first experience a person has of the Star (Jesus Christ) and His “program” (the gospel) is the studio audience. They are the church. As with any TV show, if all you had to go by was the behavior of the studio audience, which programs or “stars” would entice you to want to know more? At what point, as you watch the audience’s reaction in following the star, would you want to be a part of them?
As we come into the Christmas season, people are thinking on these things. They are watching all kinds of seasonal programs. They will get into the annual ritual of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Frosty the Snowman”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, and a host of others. But they are also watching YOU.
Christians are often harsh judges of the people of the world and their practices. But just think, if you and I, the church, is the only “program” they are watching from day to day, should they be enticed to want to know the Star of our program? As one wise young man in the Big Pool Maryland used to say “You are the only Bible some people will ever read.” Does your behavior, your priorities, your lifestyle - especially during this commercialized materialistic time of year - reveal a deeper side of life to those who are watching you? Is there any reason they should “change the channel” from their current choices? Do you and I convey a sense of knowing someone whom anyone watching us will want to meet for themselves?
Ponder your holiday traditions and practices. Do they reflect or obscure the Star? Remember it is not “X-mas”, it is Christmas: Christ Mass Day.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Whitmore serves God at the First United Methodist Church in Laurel, MD.