Night has fallen in the city, but the streets are alive with people. Neon lights flash against the dark sky. The smells of fish, squid balls, cigarettes and emission fumes fill the air. Taxis honk their horns, stereos blare, motorcycle engines rev, dogs bark, and voices shout to be heard. Above all the noise a recorded carol pipes out from McDonald's loudspeakers across the street.
“Silent Night, Holy Night…”
I walk behind my family, keeping an eye on our three children as they edge their way through the throng of jostling shoppers and street vendors hawking their wares: pineapples and durian, piles of clothing, individually wrapped candies, used shoes, dirty puppies, and numberless graphic DVDs for sale everywhere we look.
“…all is calm, all is bright…”
A blind beggar holds his hands high in supplication to the crowd, a toothless old woman flashes a grin at our son, and a professional beggar girl with no shoes and a listless infant resting on her shoulder approaches, rubbing her stomach and giving her best pleading look.
“Round yon virgin, mother and child, Holy Infant so tender and mild…”
Passersby step around a barefoot little boy lying sound asleep on the broken cement of the sidewalk, while down the street a young girl has found a bed in a rough wooden cart parked along the dusty roadside.
“Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”
Suddenly realization floods my mind and shocks my senses. This place is a whole lot more like the world Jesus was born into than any place I have ever lived before. Smelly. Dirty. Loud. Broken. Needy. The people on this street corner more closely resemble the ones Jesus came to live among than anyone I’ve ever known before. All my life I have sung this carol in quiet, reverent tones, in sanitary and beautiful places. Christ’s coming had become in my subconscious mind a sweet, poetic event surrounded by gentle, lovely drama.
But now I have the privilege of living in a culture more like the one Jesus lived in. A culture that is more distinctly aware of its need for Him. Among people who truly know what it is to live in constant dependence on His provision. A culture largely stripped of pretense, poise or polish. And here, in this same street filled with broken humanity, I hear the strains of the carol, unashamedly heralding the only true and lasting joy:
”Christ, the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!”
And I realize that this is exactly who I was without Him: broken, needy, filthy with sin, in desperate need of the ultimate gift of Christmas...the 'dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth!"
~This post is a revised excerpt from our December 2009 newsletter