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We landed in Manhattan in search of great Christmas cheer. We strode among holiday shoppers and dined beside neighborly locals. Our eyes sparkled in the brilliance of tree lights and glamorous storefronts. Unbeknownst to us, a shadow rolled across the city. In the midst of preparing for the celebration of a Savior, darkness mounted its forces.

In the days before our arrival, hate-mongers stirred protesters to steam through those icy streets. Fists raised, a rally cry rose for murder. Blood thirst escalated and snatched up souls dangling near its edges. A fatal stabbing hit the news. Two officers fell prey to an ambush. Assassinations culminated in paranoia and division. With a stench far weightier than smog, resentment poisoned the air.

Media didn’t notify us first. The impact touched us through personal stories as we met people. The woman who sat with us on the plane told us about her son’s overtime demands. Nine to twelve hour shifts with little sleep between them. She shared her worries over her son and daughter, NYPD officers. A young man in the airport told us his friend was stabbed to death over the weekend. The report on television brought him the sad news. We visited mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday morning, where the priest said he learned of the assassination from sorrow-laden officers during the previous night’s event. So many lives burned by evil.

Each word, touch, and gesture ripples out with influence on other lives around it. I’ll risk overstating the obvious with a new and much-needed declaration: We don’t need any more hatred. Our scarred and fear-riddled world needs an infusion of love. The night has raged far too long, and our shuddering souls ache for light.

Let’s invite the Light of the World to shine through and among us. Adopt rally cries of love and peace. Seek healing and unity instead of vengeance. Lower our fists and reach out to clasp hands. Pray for our neighbors until we see enemies as brothers and sisters in God’s family. Sound impossible? Only if we attempt it without God’s strength to make all things new.

The same Christ born into mad King Herod’s kingdom of paranoia and violence remains available to us today. He drew into one family the poor outcasts along with corrupt tax collectors. His teachings about love culminated in one equalizing point–the cross. He rent His body to make way for an otherwise impossible redemption, reconciling us with a holy God.

In Christ, we can reconcile with one another. No gap remains too wide for His outstretched arms to bridge. Even our modern “people walking in darkness” can see a great light. We who know the Light must step up and share it with others. Will you join me in reflecting the ultimate Star this Christmas?

“the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

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Centuries ago, a wary king rebuilt his wooden stronghold with stones. He nestled a bluestone in its ramparts to honor the special rock’s donor. Legends swirled from the walls through a nobleman’s lips and into the royal court. His flattery confounded the queen. Rumors stirred the winds and people suspected unnatural origins to his verbal prowess. The Blarney Stone’s reputation cemented itself into Irish lore.

Strongholds anchored castle security. Often located in the center of a fortress, residents and soldiers retreated to the stronghold when enemies threatened to breach the outer walls. Blarney Castle’s owner sought to protect his estate with well-oiled speech. When the English queen presented a threat, he stood within the ramparts of words.

Tourists kiss the legendary Blarney Stone in hopes of obtaining his magical gift of eloquence. Seeking the power of influence, visitors lean backward over the precipice and press their lips against the special rock. Yet eloquence and influence weather away like wooden structures. 

It’s time to seek a stronghold that has been rebuilt with lasting stones. 

The everlasting cornerstone bears a radiant name. Truth remains impervious to weather, time, or enemy attacks. And when our lips stretch to bless Him, He returns the kiss with warm blessings. Much better than smooching a rock, if you ask me. Unlike Blarney Castle, we needn’t end our visit and return to life’s drudgery. The Word of God invites us to join Him as part of the castle. Truth offers far richer delights than legend. Will you join the glorious Kingdom structure and devote your lips to the Rock of Ages?

 “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house … through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:  ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.” – 1 Peter 2:4-7

 

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