Easter bunnies, leprechauns, ghouls and goblins, cupids, bearded fat men in red suits…all are creepy. Any given holiday will have one of these characters wandering the stores or standing on the corners or mingling with the children, drawing them in with sweet treats and promises of presents. I remember shopping a couple of years ago with my son in the spring and there was an Easter bunny wandering around the store, peeking around aisles and hopping through the garden center and handing out candy to children. He was dressed in a tattered white furry costume with long bent pink ears and broken whiskers with big white teeth and little beady eyes that did not move but stared blankly in whatever direction the head was pointing – creepy. I assume this character was approved to be wandering the store since the assistant manager was tagging along after him watching his every move, which in a way was even more creepy.
We did our best to avoid him but he caught us in the hardware aisle and skipped by my son and I and snickered as he passed with his little manager friend close in tow wearing a sheepish grin – it’s giving me the willies just writing about it! After they had passed I leaned over to my son and asked what he thought would happen if a man dressed as Jesus were walking around instead, handing out tracts and praying with people. Come to think of it, what would happen if instead of a fat man dressed in red with a white beard inviting children to sit on his lap and whisper in his hear what toys they wanted at Christmas, there was a mom and dad kneeling near a cradle with a baby boy inviting people to come and see what God had done.
Have we strayed so far from the truth and followed the lies for so long that we no longer see the difference? It’s not hard to understand why these characters are so compelling…their lies come with the offer of candy and toys, while the truth often comes with surrender and repentance – not an easy sell! There is a tug of war taking place in our culture between the truth and the lie and believers are the rope. We are told by the world to “stay in your little church – don’t come out, don’t teach or preach, and don’t share your faith out here because it might offend.” We are also told by our church leaders to “go out into the fields for they are ripe for the harvest and then bring those you find back here to be saved.”
Both are wrong.
We are called to be salt and light in a dark and unsavory world. It is not up to the church leaders safe behind their four walls to save the lost. It is up to the Holy Spirit working in and through believers who are willing to shine a light and season their lives with hope, kindness, and love to draw the lost to Christ right where they are. The truth of salvation can be presented in simple and loving ways that are not offensive. It can be seen in simple acts of kindness or a glance that says “I understand” and “don’t be afraid”. It is found when you keep your promises and confidences and do your best to be honest. These are the kinds of things that people everywhere are longing for and willing to follow after…if they are real.
The world has given us characters for every holiday that entice us with sweet treats and pretty wrapped presents, but after the excitement wears off they are nothing but empty promises and figments of our vain imaginations. We don’t have to bluster and banter or scream a hell-fire sermon about the truth that we know – we need to be the truth that we know to a world longing for something real.