Bells clanging, bodies burning, smoke rising—I’ll never forget my first experience of the Aarti along the banks of the Ganges. People were passionately worshiping. Not the Most High God, but the goddess of the Ganges River.
Every year hundreds of thousands of worshipers make the pilgrimage from around the world to Varanasi. Every night thousands gather along those banks and in small boats on the river to experience this unique and well-choreographed worship service.
Older people hope to die there and have their bodies cremated over the Ganges so their ashes will flow into the river and on to nirvana. Others come seeking enlightenment but instead wander through dark temples and bow to lifeless idols.
This is one of many dark places around the world where followers of Christ live and serve, seeking to proclaim the Light of the gospel to those who have never heard. Millions remain without the hope of eternity in His presence. They do not know that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Their problem is not a matter of right timing to die on the banks of a “holy” river. Their problem is eternal lostness.
One night two thousand years ago, an angel stood before shepherds in a field. There were no bells clanging or smoke rising, but the glory of the Lord shone all around them. And the angel proclaimed good news of great joy: the birth of a Savior for all people, the coming of the long-awaited Messiah.
The worship that followed was a multitude of angels praising God. “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14)
The shepherds hurried to find the baby that the Lord had made known to them. And they told others the good news of His birth. Then continued on their way, glorifying and praising God.
That little baby was Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless Lamb of God. He said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
One day Jesus took our sins upon Himself and died on the cross. He resurrected on the third day, victorious over sin and death. And those who repent and believe this good news come out of the darkness, into His marvelous light.
However, still today, “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5).
So this Christmas season, let’s pray for more laborers to go and share the good news in the dark fields of those who have never heard. Let’s look for every opportunity to share the reason for the hope we have within us. Let’s worship the Most High God and glorify His name.