Where the holidays, Swahili, and video games intersect

The holiday season is upon us. Now that Halloween is a distant two weeks past and most of the candy is gone, the stores which had been slowly introducing Christmas décor for the past month now feel it fully within their scope to unleash their holiday wares in full force. Christmas lights have been strung at malls and snowflakes adorn lampposts. Even my ipod knows of the upcoming celebrations: some Christmas music has snuck its way onto it and plays any chance it gets. While I haven’t given in to the temptation of embracing ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ there’s a level of anticipation in me that builds every time I hear ‘dance of the sugar plum fairy.’

A common complaint I hear from Christians is the way that Christmas as a holiday has been convoluted from its original purpose. It’s true: commercialism has changed the season. Christmas easily becomes about picking the best gifts for the people you care about (as if that will affect the amount they love you), and getting the coolest new toys, no matter what age you are. There are times when marketers have even tried to capitalize on the juxtaposition of secular versus religious Christmas: as a kid we had a snowglobe featuring Santa kneeling at baby Jesus’ manger.

It’s happened in other holidays as well: no one has ever been able to explain to me why a bunny is the poster child for a holiday where we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. For that matter, I never really got why a mammal delivered (or hid) eggs either.

All this is just to say that the secular world has an influence on Christian culture, which is sometimes a discouraging thought.

But last Sunday, I saw an example about how sometimes the reverse is true too. While visiting my home church in NC last weekend, the choir sang a song called Baba Yetu: basically a Swahili translation of the Lord’s Prayer. The song itself was beautiful and I would’ve enjoyed it simply on its own merit, but the worship leader shared that this song was written to be the theme song for the video game Civilizations IV. I’m no gamer, so the fact that I’ve even heard of the game means that its decently popular. How amazing is it that a song like this, with undeniably Jesus-oriented lyrics, has a place among   the gaming community. I love the thought that someone who has no interest in setting foot in a church may hear this song and like it enough to go look up the lyrics. God can use something like a well-placed good song to reveal himself to people. It’s a beautiful thing that Christian culture can, in fact, have an effect on secular culture.

So while it is sad to realize sometimes how easily we lose the reason for God-ordained things, it’s awesome to realize that God can also take areas of life that have no obvious connection to Himself and call them back in small ways. There’s a bigger story here than any individual one of us can see: while we may not recognize it, Christ can put signs that point to him in the most unassuming of places. Even in a video game theme song.

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