Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples, but the LORD will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3
This year the government of Sierra Leone banned Christmas.
In the past, some governments have put a kibosh on the festivities surrounding the Savior's birth because they didn't like the competition. Other governments, motivated by the religious non-Christian majority of their populace, just didn't want anybody to hear any mention of the Savior.
Sierra Leone's motivation was different. You see, Sierra Leone has passed Liberia as being the country with the greatest number of Ebola outbreaks.
As the president of the country said, "When you have parties, the risks are very high. We are very anxious to break the chain of transmission through parties and gathers." To that end, troops patrolled the streets to make sure the populace stayed away from any worship experience.
The same kind of thing once happened in the United States. That's right. It happened during the flu epidemic of 1917-1918. For those of you, who don't know, let me share. This flu was unique. It didn't take the old and infirm; it specialized in killing those who were young and healthy.
To stop the spread of that illness, many large communities decided, for a short time, to ban all forms of public worship. It was a difficult time for Christian congregations. At the very time when they felt people should be turning to the Lord and supporting each other, they were prohibited from doing so.
So what did they do? Did the churches forget the Savior's birth, life, death and resurrection?
They did not. What they did was this: they kept the lights of their churches burning 24 hours a day. Then they took out newspaper ads encouraging people to take an evening walk past the church. They suggested people might pay special attention to, and meditate upon, the message of God's love, which was on display in the congregation's stained-glass windows.
Many people took the suggestion and saw the Christ and His church in a different way.
Now I don't know what the believers of Sierra Leone did this past Christmas season. On the other hand, I do know the Holy Spirit can do some of His best work when human conditions are at their worst. It is then that He can motivate the redeemed to come forward and share the Savior's story of salvation in new ways, unique ways, different ways.
This is all just another way of saying, a government can shut down Christmas, but it can't silence the comfort and hope that comes in the Christ.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, You have reached out to me through my Savior. Now may believers around the world reflect the wonders of Your great grace to those who remain lost. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries