When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
As a recent immigrant from Africa I was somewhat surprised when I first drove into Orillia (Ontario). In fact I wasn’t just surprised, I was flabbergasted. Picture my dilemma. I had only been in Canada for a month and had never visited Orillia. In the midst of a winter snowstorm, I arrived to preach on Christmas Sunday as the guest speaker at Hillside Bible Chapel. As I turned off the highway, I saw an icy sign welcoming me to the sunshine city!
It was a paradox. And it had caught my attention. So, determined to unravel the enigma. I returned to Toronto and asked one or two guarded questions about the people up north. It wasn’t long before someone told me I would only understand if I read Stephen Leacock’s, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. The first sentence in the book had me hooked. “I don’t know whether you know Mariposa …” As I read on it began to make sense. For Leacock is a master storyteller with rare insights into what makes a little town warm and special.
Later that year I moved to Orillia and began collecting my own sketches of the town. They were somewhat different to Leacock’s anecdotes for they were the perspectives of a pastor whose focus was no longer on the ‘sunshine’ but on the Son shine. Allow me to elaborate:
My first Son shine sketch of Orillia came while walking downtown along the board-walk in Couchiching Park. Pausing for a moment I gazed back over the city and was delighted to observe several church spires dominating the skyline. This gave me a measure of hope as well as a sense of gratitude that, at least in a physical sense, Christianity was at the heart of the town.
My second Son shine sketch was one of perception. As I met Christians from different denominations, I was encouraged to discover how we shared a deep-seated desire to see Christ as the raison d’etre of the town. We wanted Christ to be at the centre. We wanted Son shine love to reach into every nook and cranny of Orillian society.
But more importantly, it’s not just the hope and prayer of Orillian Christians to see Son shine love reaching the people of their city, it’s the essence of God’s will for every hamlet, village, town, and city around the world. His Word declares “He is patient with (us), not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. For God wants each and every person to know that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.
So see your neighbourhood as a place for the Son to shine. Pray for the love of Christ to infiltrate every office and home. And work through the Christmas season to share the Son shine with everyone you meet.