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...and a Happy New Year

30 December 2011 by Tom Chantry

A couple of years ago a friend said to me that he felt bad for our kids because the world is just getting so much worse.

Yeah, I get it. Economic opportunity is disappearing, liberty is in crisis, and war has ceased to be an occasional interruption and has become our nation’s status quo. Society’s morals have collapsed in ways we only recently thought impossible, and in this the church is complicit. For that matter, the church can’t even seem to agree any more on what the gospel is, and this includes some evangelical heroes.

But are these circumstances unparalleled in history? We just celebrated Christmas, a holiday which should be a reminder of a time when people “walked in darkness.” The religious leaders - at least, the influential ones with the big building at the center of town - were functional atheists who denied the most fundamental realities of Scripture. Popular religion had been overrun with rank legalism which denied the very character of God. The faithful remnant had never been weaker. They were subjects of a brutal regime and burdened with crushing taxation. Local authority was vested in the hands of a monster who thought nothing of slaughtering children in order to achieve his political ends.

And then one day, while a couple of the 99% were sitting on a hillside at night, an angel showed up and said to them - just imagine! - “Fear not!” Of course not! What was there to be afraid of?

And what a reason he gave! “Fear not, because there’s an infant lying in a filthy stall in an insignificant village that Caesar never even heard of, but he’s your Savior: Christ the Lord.” And that, in a nutshell, is Christmas: if God is with us in the Person of His Son, then fear not.

So, what about the holiday we are about to celebrate? As the New Year rings in, the Savior is no longer wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, but instead is wrapped in glory and seated at the right hand of the Father. He is no longer an infant, but is once more clothed in omnipotence. He is not walking among us, but has sent the Spirit of Truth that we might not be orphans.

It remains a rather obvious fact that many still walk in darkness. The collapsing economy, hopeless political strife, unending war, global poverty, abominable morals, and a church so full of elephants we can scarcely see the room any more - all this and much more is very, very true. But if the Angel were to appear to us just as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, I have a pretty good idea what he’d say.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people. For on your behalf there sits this day in the Heaven of Heavens a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign unto you: you shall receive His Spirit, and one day you shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”