For Christmas, my husband and I installed a new fireplace in our family room. Our original fireplace had been unusable for the past couple of years because of a cracked flume. As a temporary solution, we stuck a small electric unit in the hearth. It was cute…..even made the crackling sounds of a fire! But, it just was not the same. There was no heat to warm the room, no smell of a fresh fire, and it for sure didn’t light the room up the way our new one does! What a treat the new one has been! We both enjoy time by the fire during the cold winter season. It is especially nice after a long day of skiing. The ambiance it provides is warm, inviting and incredibly relaxing!
So, when our pastor made mention of “pilot light” Christianity a few weeks ago…..my ears perked up. A pilot light, commonly found in gas appliances, is a small flame that serves to ignite a more powerful burn. In the case of a gas fireplace, it generally remains lit at all times and is used to activate a larger fire when desired. With this imagery, he offered up his observation of a sad reality; the majority of Americans do not embrace a full-fledged on-fire relationship with God. Instead, they tend to embrace a small pilot light of faith; one that only heats up in the event of a crisis and is on a need-to-use basis.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.Matthew 5:16
What he was saying completely resonated with me. Ironically, I had thought on this concept a great deal over this past Christmas season because it put to words what I observed among many of my own friends and family. There is not one person within my close-knit group of friends or extended family that does NOT celebrate Christmas. In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas annually. However, within my own circle, I can count on one hand the number of these same friends and family that are practicing Christians, devoted to a deep and meaningful Biblical relationship with God; one that guides their everyday life; one that roars like a fire on the inside of them and shines to those around them.
Throughout our nation, only 65% are self-described Christians, and a much smaller minority are regularly practicing. For most Americans, Christmas has become a commercialized holiday that is celebrated….well… simply because that’s what everyone does. No longer is it celebrated by the majority as an act of worship and thanksgiving for the birth of Jesus Christ. Instead, it has become a secular substitute for a shallow and frayed faith walk. “Merry Christmas” has become “Happy Holidays,” nativities have been replaced with Elf on the Shelf, and children around the world wake up on December 25th to gifts galore without any true understanding of its significance.
I love celebrating Christmas. It is an outward celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a time when memories are made, moments are treasured, families gather, traditions are carried, and the gift of our Savior is on full display. In the chaos of a deeply lost world, it brings me a deep sense of peace and joy.
The spirit of Christmas – in all of it’s richness and glory – cannot be possibly grasped by pilot light Christians. Yet, it is where the majority of people sit these days. I don’t say this to sound crass or demeaning, but rather to highlight the cliche of it all. Christmas literally means the Mass of Christ, yet so many are without a relationship with Christ. Easter will be next, and the cycle will continue. Many of our friends and family will hide eggs, enjoy a meal and fill baskets full of treats. Yet, the other 363 days of the year they will live their lives devoid of any real evidence of faith.
It is my desire to see people experience the richness of life when you have a robust relationship with God. My life is so much fuller as a result.
Where do you need a bit of courage to speak life to someone? Or, live in such a way that demonstrates your faith to those around you? Let your fire burn brightly to those around you! Join me in praying for friends and family. Ask God to move mightily in their lives, igniting the God shaped flame that is within all of us.