We've been in Lanzhou since Sun night. Lanzhou is the capitol city of Gansu province, the province where Judah was born. And abandoned. Lanzhou was a primary city on the Silk Road, and is home to representative populations from most of China's ethnic groups. The Silk Road was also an open-door for Buddism and Islam to penetrate this area.
Sun night when we exited our airplane, and walked into the Lanzhou airport -- we were quite surprised to find it completed packed with Muslims (identified by the white cap that the Muslim men in this area wear). They were waiting to greet and celebrate with friends/family who we're returning from some type of Muslim pilgramage. Lanzhou is home to many Buddist temples and Islamic mosques -- there's even an autonimous region in this city where Muslims have certain freedoms from government regulation. However, according to our guide who lives here, there is no Evangelical presense. She herself (28) claims no religion.
That said, I have found it interesting to walk into almost any type of business here and see Christmas decorations. Christmas trees, Santas, bells...you name it. Oh, and the Christmas music that is usually blaring over the speakers.
But more than interesting, I find it so very sad. And I've been filled with an angst since we've been here. There's nothing more sad than to see a copy-cat, pagan celebration of Jesus' birth. The Christmas decor almost magnifies the darkness.
And even more sad still, is the missed-opportunity that the Western Christian church has had to celebrate and share Christ during this very sacred time of year. We've, instead, traded the Truth for Santa...and traded God's glory for the glory of ourselves and our children. And we have taught our practices even to people here in China.
We've pretended for so long that we, as Believers, can ride the fence...that we can taint our Savior's birth with pagan practices, and yet not deny His renown. But I see here, now, in this city that we have denied God's renown -- especially as I watch the spiritually-dead hang garland on trees and wear stockings on their heads -- all the while, remaining under God's wrath.
There's Christmas everywhere, yet no understanding or knowledge of God's redemption and grace, nor His holiness or glory. As I watch millions upon millions walk around this city, dead in their trespasses, I can't help but feel a deep call to repentance. And I can't help but wonder if the church were listening, would we hear God calling us to a collective repentance as well.