“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-15)
In 1630, as the Puritans were traveling to America, John Winthrop proclaimed that their future community would be a city on a hill, a light for the world to see true Christian charity. Last Sunday evening, a group of us had a chance to step into Boston’s inheritance that John Winthrop spoke of.
Gathering at the gazebo in Boston Common, seven bundled kingdom warriors came bearing candles. We huddled together to strike the matches and set the wicks alight. Although the frigid night air swirled around us and tried to snuff our lights out, Christ Otto found a few discarded cups to guard the light from the harsh wind, and soon scents of hot chocolate and coffee wafted around us like scented candles.
We tromped through the snow bearing torches of these Starbucks cups, feeling the crusty ice crunching beneath our feet. We tread confidently, carrying the same good news of great joy for all the people as the angel that bore the news of Jesus’ birth over 2,000 years ago (Luke 2:10).
This was a different sort of prayer walk. Rather than the usual standing and interceding together, we found ourselves singing carols, declaring Christ’s reign in this place. “Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!…Come and adore him, born the king of angels. Oh come let us adore him.”
What impressed me most was the number of people who came to us to ask what we were doing. Passers-by stopped their conversations to listen and take it in, despite our lack of practice and my mumbling of the lyrics. We were blessed by the joy on stranger’s faces and cheery calls of “Merry Christmas.”
We traveled to a street deemed the combat zone of Boston, known for its crime, prostitution, and drug trafficking. We spoke prayers aloud, then continued singing. A man on the street came up to us with a tear in his eye. “I don’t know when I have heard people singing Christmas carols before.” We stopped and prayed with him in the dark. He was touched by us, as we with him.
The thought came to me: This is the way it’s supposed to be. When Christ’s light shines, people come to see. They can’t help but pause from their hurried lives to watch, to listen, and to soak up the love that lights the night.
My friend Christ Otto told me later that this was one of the most significant evenings of his time in Boston. This says a lot, because Christ has been laboring in Boston for nearing six years.
And so we sing, holding up His illuminating beam in our hands and hearts, declaring the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We band together, joining our distinct lights as one until the day when the city of Boston does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord will give it light, and the Lamb its lamp, and the nations walk by its light. (Revelation 21:23).