Friday, December 19, 2008

My Christmas Message

A Christmas Message from the Pastor...

Tis the season to be jolly?

Well, maybe, if you're a child. But, if you're a parent, or on a fixed income, or have a son or daughter in the military or trying to get into college, it's perhaps less than a jolly season.

I don't suppose, since the Great Depression and WWII, we have faced the challenges as a society that we do now. Some would say that all this is cyclical, that following the boom there is the bust, but they are quick to add that the boom is surely on the way.

Perhaps. But, I would offer one observation for your consideration. Never have our institutions been so shaky at the foundation and so riddled with blatant and rank greed at the heart. To be sure, the government and our financial institutions have always favored the monied and the powerful -- the elites. This is the American way, after all, but now, even the powerful-with-wealth have been stiff-armed into economic submission.

To tease out the problem in more detail, the god of America has always been wealth. We overly reward the athlete, the tycoon, even the government official with both wealth and honor for their service, often relegating altruism to an asterisk. This means that wealth equals success. And, I should quickly add that people on the Jesus-way are not immune from this notion of wealth and conspicuous consumption as the fulfillment of the American Dream. No, the seduction of possessions and high-rolling credit hits both the lifestyles of the rich and famous and the saved and faithful.

But, with the economic crash this idea has been called into question. Put differently, since the god of mammon has fallen on hard-times, one might well ask, where do we go from here?

Perhaps it is in difficult times that we can return to the core of who we are, to our deepest values. For the follower of the Christ, in the midst of these steep struggles -- as we face layoffs and unemployment and falling wages and shrinking retirements -- what do we have to offer the Savior this year? Perhaps it may be the most precious gift of all -- our attention.

Said another way, perhaps with the downward turn of all things economic, we have the opportunity to look upward to the God who is there; the God who sent his son into the world as a peasant, so that in his brief life he would learn what it means to suffer in this world. You ask, did the Savior learn? Of course he did! The writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews tells us that: " So even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered." (Hebrews 5:8)

This is meant to explain to us that the LORD understands not only our suffering, but how we are to endure suffering as he did. Later in that same letter to the Hebrews the writer says: "...let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven. Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don't become weary and give up." (Hebrews 12:1c-3)

Part of the way we endure is that we hang together. We hold each other up in prayer to the God who now understands our suffering. We stand beside the weary, the poor, the unemployed and the under-employed, and we, together, allow the power of the risen Savior, the one who came to us through the dirt of Bethlehem's manger, to guide our way. We no longer look to Washington or Wall Street for our strength. Instead, we travel light, and we travel together, and we travel on the narrow-way for a change.