A few years ago early fall found me in North Carolina at a wedding rehearsal in little country church somewhat off the beaten path. After the rehearsal dinner, everyone moved to the sanctuary to begin the walk-though and to go over the last minute details for the ceremony the coming day.
Since I had no real part in the wedding, (I was just along for the ride), I brought plenty of material so I could catch up on some reading and also have some time to bring some ideas to the anvil for shaping that had been in the fire for a few weeks. While everyone settled into position and sound checks were in progress, I slipped out the door to retrieve my papers and books from the car. When I got to the church doors again, I found them locked and heard the pastor begin his pre-ceremony briefing. Not wanting to disturb matters by banging on the glass, I moved to the reception hall entrance and discovered it was secure too. I tried two other doors as well and got the same result. I was locked out of church. I thought, “Sooner or later, someone will miss me…maybe.”
So, with nothing else to do, I stood outside under a swaying Carolina Pine as the night breeze cooled rapidly and two of the last crickets of summer lazily answered each other across the churchyard with long, slow chirps as the mercury dropped steadily. Noticing the stained glass windows of the church, I began to walk around the building in the dark to examine them. Each window depicted a different event in the life of Christ, starting with his birth and ending with His return to earth. I stopped when I found the window showing the crucifixion and stood in the shaft of colored light, outside in the cold, while everyone else celebrated inside.
I couldn’t help but think, “I wonder, in Christianity, how many people stand outside, looking at the light and hearing the celebration, but no one invites them to take part.” They find themselves, for lack of a better way of saying it, “locked out.” When we become so polarized that we don’t want people who “aren’t like us” to worship alongside us, fearfully step away from living Christ out before a misguided, hurting culture, or simply develop an attitude of not caring about those we encounter daily, one must wonder if we take Jesus’ words seriously.
After all, He did say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt. 28:19a).
Perhaps now is the time to unlock the door, step outside your comfort zone, and show those who stand in the cold how to join the celebration. Because we all are either in the cold, or have come out of the cold; the only hope for any of us is the truth shining from that stained glass window: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).