The first reactions to Star Wars: The Last Jedi are in. According to the Associated Press, “the enthusiastic audience laughed and cheered throughout much of the two-and-a-half-hour film.” If you weren’t invited to the Los Angeles premiere, that’s because you’re not a Hollywood insider.
While being a celebrity might get you into a blockbuster movie opening, it’s no match for the power of nature. Paris Hilton, Chelsea Handler, Jennifer Tilly, and Lea Michele are among the celebrities fleeing wildfires that have grown larger than New York City and Boston combined. Tilly had to go to four hotels to find a room.
Now let’s shift gears to the most popular celebrity of Christmas. National Geographic is reporting on the final remains of St. Nicholas: “Though his remains are venerated worldwide, no one knows for certain where he rests in peace—or more accurately, in pieces.”
The man whose life became the basis for Santa Claus was a venerated Christian leader whose relics were distributed throughout Christendom after his death. A radiocarbon study conducted by Oxford University scholars shows that a relic housed in the Shrine of All Saints in Morton Grove, Illinois, does in fact date to the time of the saint’s death. Other relics of St. Nicholas are housed in more than a dozen churches around the world.
Nicholas of Myra was born in the city of Patara (in modern-day Turkey) in AD 270. His wealthy parents died in an epidemic while he was young.
Obeying Jesus’ command in Matthew 19:21 to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He was made Bishop of Myra while a young man and participated in the council that produced the Nicene Creed.
Those who are celebrities today may be forgotten tomorrow, but the Holy Spirit describes God’s faithful with this promise: “They may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13). The deeds of St. Nicholas have obviously followed him.
Will others say the same of us one day?
The legacy of an improbable king
Over the weekend, I found myself reflecting on the life and legacy of King Josiah. The Bible describes this unlikely king with the highest praise: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kings 23:25).
The godliest king in biblical history ascended to the throne at the age of eight (2 Kings 22:1). Eighteen years later, those refurbishing the temple “found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” (v. 8), probably the Book of Deuteronomy. The king then gathered the leaders and people (2 Kings 23:1) and “read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord” (v. 2).
Next, Josiah made a personal commitment “to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments” (v. 3a). Following his example, “all the people joined in the covenant” (v. 3b).
Putting his commitment into practice, Josiah then directed the destruction of every implement used for idol worship (vv. 4–20) and ordered the observance of the Passover (vv. 21–23). He did all this “that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord” (v. 24).
Now that we know his remarkable story, we are not surprised by the biblical assessment that there was no king in biblical history as godly as Josiah (v. 25). However, his story was recorded by the Holy Spirit in Scripture not just to honor this faithful king but to lead us to emulate him.
How can we follow Josiah’s example today?
Emulating Josiah to glorify Jesus
God has given you a Kingdom assignment he has given to no one else. Here’s how Josiah would encourage you to be a good steward of the influence the Lord has entrusted to you during this Christmas season.
One: Spend time with your Father in his word. My major professor in seminary used to speak of being “immersed in Scripture.” Don’t let the busyness of the season distract you from the One whose birth we celebrate.
Two: Make public your personal commitment to Jesus. Testify to the “reason for the season” as the Spirit leads you, knowing that he will use your witness to lead others to join your faith.
Three: Align your life with values that glorify your Lord. Remove all that dishonors him in your personal life and stand publicly for biblical morality wherever you have influence.
As you emulate Josiah to glorify Jesus, don’t wait until you have a greater opportunity to serve your Lord. Be of use where you are because you certainly cannot be of use where you are not.
Nicholas of Myra had no idea he would become a venerated saint and that I would encourage us to follow his example today. Now it’s our turn. Singer and evangelist Keith Green: “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!”
Whose souls are you responsible for this Christmas?