Two articles came across my desk this week that were just hard. They were about the same thing – sex abuse in a church setting. One piece was very Roman Catholic and one was very Evangelical. At first, I was struck about how typical were the issues with each piece – the various weaknesses of the Evangelical and Roman Catholic approaches to faith were obvious. But I also thought to myself that they are both dealing with a crisis and they both have to be given the room to respond to that crisis with their particular strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the best way to improve on a weakness is to simply have to deal with it.
But the articles continued to chew at my soul. It is after all, Christmas. We are supposed to be thinking about other things. This is the time of year that God came into the world and set a new agenda. And yet here are these problems, these very worldly problems, trying to move the agenda back to the same old garbage God came to try and lift us out of. It makes me terribly sad at this very joyous time of the year to think that the church (in whatever expression) has mired itself in the ever-so-worldly when we are celebrating something as utterly heavenly as the Incarnation. The birth of Christ set into motion events that God promises will lead to a better world. Right now even His church seems to be fighting against that tide – wanting to stay in the same old world.
The fledgling nation of Israel struggled and struggled, as we are seeing the church do now, to be the promise to the world that God intended it to be. The leader of the nation, Joshua, gathered them together and recounted for them everything that God had done for them. Joshua ended his presentation saying:
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
The juxtaposition of these articles with the season and celebration seems to ask us to make the same choice. The people of Israel expressed no desire to forsake God, so Joshua warns them of how hard it is to follow God and how jealous He will be if they again turn from Him. And yet
…the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
It is one of those wonderful years where the placement of December 25 in the week gives us a long Christmas celebration. We are looking at four days to be about God’s agenda. Yes, the world is going to keep spinning, but for these four days it is my sincere prayer that we can rise above. These four days let us say as the people of Israel said to Joshua and then carry that pledge into the new year.