This Thanksgiving was the first time since I was a teenager that I have been in the same place for five consecutive Thanksgivings. The same will soon be true for Advent, Christmas, and New Years. After so much moving in my life, I have found a place of stability to work for God, to get to know folks in a deeper way, for my family to have a place they call home, and to build for the future. It was a super Thanksgiving and all indications are that we will have a banner Christmas as well. I am particularly pleased, for example, at our church to see new members joining and new people stepping into the gap to continue long church Christmas traditions.
Two people often passed over in the retelling of the Christmas story are Anna and Simeon. They are passed over because their story took place after Jesus was born and their story is often told the Sunday after Christmas (usually the second lowest attended service of the year). These two old souls, Scripture tells us (Luke 2:25-38), stayed in the temple for years waiting for the Messiah. We can easily assume that five years before Christ was born, they would have been there. Both working. Both worshiping . Both hoping for the future, and yet, not knowing exactly what the coming of the Messiah would look like or when it would happen.
Many Christian ministers, particularly of the fundamentalist variety, love to talk about the end times (and how soon it will be here). There is a radio show on a.m. radio that has been on all my life that talks about how we are witnessing the end of the world around us (still). As many of you know though, I find such literal renderings of highly symbolic apocalyptic literature written two thousand years ago to be highly problematic. I also think it is more than a tad egotistical to think that our culture and our generation is the culmination of what God was waiting for before closing the books on creation.
And yet, I am convinced that five years from now we will likely be in a much more profoundly different place than the change we have seen in the last five years (which has been significant). Change appears to be picking up speed in our world and economic challenges, environmental pressure, and depletion of natural resources are all likely to become much more of practical than philosophical issues to us. We are likely to see increasing changes to the way we live and the cost of basic necessities. Our children’s and grandchildren’s paths will likely look different from our own. I also believe seismic cultural and demographic shifts are are occurring today in and around Christ’s Church which will effect our future.
But we aren’t living in the first time of significant change. I suspect, for example, that Simeon wasn’t expecting a poor couple from Nazareth to be the ones who would carry the messiah, as a new-born, into the temple. I also suspect that if you asked the “movers and shakers” of their day who in their world would first recognize the Messiah, no one would have picked Anna and Simeon. But Anna and Simeon stood ready to serve God over many years. And so, I believe, we need Christians, particularly those active in the church, need to stand ready. We may not know exactly when changes will happen or what they will be. And while 2012 probably isn’t going to be the end of times, as some have predicted, it might just be the time before significant change in our society and a time when we can serve God in significant ways (even if the world around us doubts we will play a significant role).
As we celebrate this Christmas season, let us gain our hope from the past, keep the faith in the present, and share our love in ways that prepares us all, and our community, for the future.
Until next time,