Every nation, tribe, and tongue

When I heard that a nearby university was hosting a Christmas carol festival, I didn’t need any other motivation to jump in a taxi and go. After all, North Africa isn’t the easiest place to celebrate Christmas. There are no Salvation Army bell ringers, no Christmas flyers or billboards announcing unbeatable sales, no Christmas lights, no store aisles filled with Christmas candy, hardly any Christmas shopping at all.

You may write off those things as obnoxious, an assault to your everyday life. But for me, those little things help remind me of God’s greatest Gift to mankind. This year I don’t have those reminders, and it’s hard to fully enjoy the season.

But now, in this university auditorium, I could overlook the giant poster of the country’s king on the wall and remember the coming of another King.

There were beautiful classic carols, contemporary carols, worship songs, gospel songs, touches of opera, and Bible readings. Children and adults took turns on stage, representing the evangelical churches of the country.

Some songs filled the auditorium with life, eliciting applause and cheers. In the wake of one particularly lively group, a Spanish monk walked up to the podium and read the Christmas story. The irony of the moment was stifled by the beauty of it.

Is this what heaven will be like?

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)

Worship isn’t uniformity, but it is unifying. The variation of style, genre, and the mix of at least eleven languages was remarkable…but inconsequential. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Savior. 

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