More than any year in recent memory, this New Year’s Day feels like the turning of a page. The politics of the past year has left the world shaken (for good or ill), wars and atrocities rage on globally with a sense of inevitability, and Western culture is in something of an existential funk. This was the year that death caught up with presumption, and many of the notable influences of the first truly digital generation met the fate that awaits us all pending the Lord’s coming. The list of those who brought that unavoidable truth to the culture’s corporate mind is like a casting call of most millennials’ and boomers’ childhood influences – we lost an avuncular TV building super (Pat Harrington, One Day at a Time), our favorite bear loving TV frontiersman (Dan Haggerty, Grizzly Adams), half of a beloved country duo (Joey Feek), pop music’s Prince, the Brady Bunch’s mom (Florence Henderson), Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley, Sonny James…even Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and her mom (Debbie Reynolds) – the list goes on.
So what is the Church’s response to the corporate exhalation and unified ‘good-riddance’ being spewed by so many voices toward what is unquestionably a point of inflection? Options, my friends – we have been entrusted with the option to the banal fatalism that seems to be dominating the conversation. Christ didn’t say we ‘have’ the light of the world – He said we HAVE the ‘light of life’ (John 8:12). He identified Himself as the ‘light of the world’, but also made it clear that SO ARE WE (Matthew 5:14)! What that means is that we are not called to simply possess hope for ourselves, but to BE hope for others who do not know the source of ours. Even the Church is wrestling with a healthy introspection these days as the excesses of unaccountable prosperity-speak sour in our collective spirit and leave us yearning for a simpler, more focused connection to our purpose and our promise.
What is the answer for 2017 and beyond? It’s simple – the Great Commission remains the unfulfilled command of our departing Captain, and His return is imminent! While those facing their own mortality sorting through the secular tea-leaves of their own emotional vulnerability cast about looking for answers, we are given an extraordinary opportunity to step into the void with the simple and only effective option. The call to the bench is for the preacher, not the entertainer, the counselor, confidant, coach or judge. Not the pulpiteer, mind you, but the preacher – the ‘herald’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13) that is willing to stand against the headwinds of resistance and the loneliness of being distinctive, and who will stand and proclaim a truth that can only be received by hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive it – a truth that is closed-minded, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, judgmental, intolerant, and ultimately intuitively right – that Jesus Christ alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no man can come to the Father but by and through Him (John 14:6). At the risk of spending too much time in the vernacular of the culture, and with apologies to Tom Bodett, the Body of Christ must tell the world in no uncertain terms that Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), and that He’s “left the light on for you”. Happy New Year!!