Summary: How do we move from the laundry list of today’s "Letter to Santa" to the recognition of the greatness of God’s grace
There is a bit of confusion over what is and isn’t common knowledge. “A survey of 7,000 people, conducted by the sponsorship Research International in six countries found that the Shell Oil logo, the Mercedes badge and the five Olympic rings were recognized far more widely than the Christian Cross. McDonald’s golden arches and Shell’s glowing yellow shell were recognized by 84% of those questioned; while a mere 54% could identify the Cross.” There are other equally recognizable symbols. Whether it says STOP or ALTO a red octagonal sign means stop. Likewise we recognize universal symbols for phones, bathrooms, car rentals and the like. Peter Hahne, a television personality in Germany, is fighting to rid Germany of Santa Clause in favor of St. Nicholas. He says, “"Santa is a symbol of consumption," Hahne says. "Nicholas was a real bishop [who] taught us what’s still very true today: giving does not make us poorer. It makes us richer." Another common aspect of this holiday seems to be the commercial aspect of gift giving.
Yet even with all the commonality it is interesting just how different the response of people is to Jesus and his followers. The past issue of Willamette Week had a cover article titled, “Meet the J-Crew”. It was the papers attempt to come to grips with just who or what are “evangelical Christians”? It started off by describing the difference between their readership and the church. Zach Dundas wrote, “If you’re reading this, you probably didn’t go to church, temple or mosque last weekend.” I believe it surprised him to discover that this group crossed all kinds of language and color barriers. You get a sense of the confusion when he writes about Mt. Olivet Baptist being pro-Kerry and pro-Proposition 36.
This is all to point out to us, here and now, that the world right around us does not share the same vision of God’s reality that we have as followers of Jesus. When the 2000 census showed our county had only 12% of the population identified with a church we should rejoice at the opportunity we have to share the love of God. It’s difficult for our world to understand that our sharing the news of Jesus isn’t about control, cultural superiority or power. It’s about the news that we read about in John when he wrote, “God so loved the WORLD…”
Christ isn’t for the conservatives or the liberals [progressives as they like to be called now]; whites or people of color. God’s gift was given to all nations and that’s why John’s vision of heaven includes seeing people of every tribe, nation and language. Followers of Christ have the exciting task of tell about God’s love with all kinds of folks. And what’s even better is that many of us don’t have to go that far to do this. Let me give you a few examples that I’m aware of and I’ll bet you could add many more.
• William Temple House North at St. Andrews was talking about hiring someone who spoke a second language. The board was thinking “Spanish” the staff was thinking “Russian”.
• Latino congregations share space with Life Fellowship and St. Johns Wesleyan churches on Sundays.
• There is an Islander Assembly of God church located up on Lombard near the Honda dealer ship and a Ukrainian church over near 75th and Glisan.
• Native American believers find togetherness in the churches such as the UMC in the Wilshire area who are attempting to touch those families there.
• Seafarer’s mission who touch lives of men from around the world.
• If you want to include ministries directed toward subgroups like “skaters” or “millennials and others you’ve got congregations and groups like Imago Dei, skater church, and various artistic and relational groups that don’t look like a church even though they function as one.
And the great news for Kenton is that even though we don’t share our space with a group who speak a different language we’re also involved in sharing God’s love with the world. Our church supports the work of Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship who reaches out to those in Ethiopia, Kurds in various nations and who were pivotal in work going on in the Sudan. Our gifts to Wycliffe have seen fruit as well. I recently got a newsletter from the Firth family who reported the New Testament was just translated in to the Agutaynen language. Who are they? They are a small group of Filipinos who live on several small islands in the Sulu Sea and now they have a way to learn about Jesus.
As great as it would be to add something from another culture to your Christmas celebration I’m not going to ask you to do that because I know you’ve got to be as busy as I am right now. I will ask you to do a couple of things this week however.