With Christmas right around the corner, we have officially entered panto season.
Familiar one-liners and cheesy jokes create a sense of camaraderie and joy for all generations alike as families come together in their local theatres, enjoying the ambience, making meaningful connections, and building memories.
But can you imagine what your theatre experience would be like without all the background stuff? Imagine how hard it would be to hear without good quality amplification. And what if the lights remained off? You wouldn’t be able to see what the panto was about, would you?
Let there be light
Picture this, the creation story — pantomime style.
The theatre is dark and silent, apparently void of anything. Suddenly a big booming voice overhead calls out, ‘Let there be light’. In response, all the house lights are instantly turned up, with every stage light on full beam! It’s a sight, I’m sure, that’s pretty overwhelming!
The background lighting captures the feeling , with bright colours and strong beams cutting through the haze — the colours changing at any given moment. Then there’s the front of stage lighting — nice and bright — enabling us to see specific details.
There are lights that add sparkle, lighting that creates tension, and spotlights that follow the lead actors around, helping the foreground to stand out from the background.
Although the different lights are important and necessary, it’s the spotlight that really catches our attention — enabling a connection between the audience and the faces and emotion of those performing.
A long, long time ago
Once upon a time, some 2,000 years ago, God placed a spotlight in the sky that would lead a number of men to directly connect with a baby lying in a manger in what is now modern-day Israel. The restoration of humankind to its Creator had begun, and it didn’t look like anything most people were
Thirty-three years later, as Jesus took His last breath on the cross and declared, ‘It is finished’, a tortured Christ left this world — temporarily leaving His people more confused than ever.
Today, we know that the crucifixion was not the final act. Jesus overcame death and rose again, revealing Himself to some astonished women and initially unbelieving men.
He met Thomas in his doubts, comforted, fed and walked with His disciples, and later appeared to Saul on the Damascus Road, with a light that blinded and a grace that transformed.
Shine your light
And the Light of the World continues to shine. Enabled by the gift of His Holy Spirit, you and I are also called to be ‘light in the darkness’. But often, in our attempts to ‘enlighten’, we inadvertently create a chasm that pushes people further into their darkness.
Yes, sin needs to be exposed. But when we name, we shame when we do so without insight and mercy.
Yes, culture needs addressing. But when we attack and withdraw, we polarise and divide when we do so without introspection and humility. It’s a narrow road we walk. But it’s a road that’s lit by the brightest light of all — love!
Other centred love
Love doesn’t always look the way we imagine. It is other centred and brave. When we love — as Jesus loves — we meet people where they’re at.
We lean into their worlds without judgment or pride. We journey with them at their pace, offering kindness and grace with every opportunity. We start to see them, and I mean really see them. We get to understand better a person’s ‘why’ and are privileged with insight into their story. This is the ‘background stuff’ that informs our life experience. (Remember the lights and sounds at the theatre?)
Our job isn’t to convict or change people. It’s to help them experience Jesus for themselves, every day of their lives. He is the One who transforms, heals and redeems. He is the light of the world (John 8:12).
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). That is something worth celebrating this Christmas — and it’s the place from which we operate — as people who love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love lights up this world.
Do not fear
There is always a baddy in a panto, and it’s easy to get frightened when the lights go down and the music turns to a minor key. But, for every baddy, there’s a hero who always shines through in the end.
It’s the same for us. We have an enemy. He lies and divides. He spreads fear and disdain. But we also have a Hero whose restoration story continues. It may feel as if Jesus is sometimes backstage, but He is always present, and will be front and centre for the final curtain call.
This Christmastime, why not choose again to love brightly and courageously, knowing that Jesus has your back? He goes before you and — because I just can’t resist — ‘He’s behind you!’
Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve read and ask the Holy Spirit to shine a spotlight on anyone to whom you can bring God’s love and light. Maybe it will mean setting an extra place at your table for dinner…
Remember, it’s a privilege to hear another person’s story and gain an insight into the background stuff of life. Indeed, it’s from this privileged position of enlightenment that we should never cease praying — confident that the darkness around us can never extinguish the light of Jesus (John 1:5).