For many, today is disappointing. For Christians who supported Trump or are at least wary of Biden, losing an election is never easy. With the peaceful transfer of power complete, much of their disappointment rises out of concern for the future of religious liberty and abortion in this administration.
For many, today is exciting. There are a significant portion of Christians who supported Biden and worked hard for his campaign. Motivated by their faith on issues of immigration, race, or criminal justice, these Christians are celebrating today in hopes that the next four years will mark significant political and social progress.
For many, today is cathartic. The past four years have been a marathon that appears to finally be over. Within a culture that was already polarized, the past four years have exacted a significant toll mentally and relationally. For a substantial group of Christians, the hope of today is that some semblance of civility can be reclaimed.
The challenge of pastors and church leaders is to encourage the good in these reactions and caution against the temptation to make politics our idol. Pastors should share the excitement, disappointment, and catharsis of their people but always within the backdrop of God’s kingdom.
Critically, not all political engagement is idolatry. The emotions of fear or joy, disappointment or excitement, optimism or pessimism in the aftermath of an election are not inherently signs of creeping political idolatry. Rather, they can be the natural result of faithful application of the Christian faith to society.
Political idolatry begins, in contrast, when we begin to place our final hope in politicians or political parties. When these emotions betray our belief that political victory lies at the heart of God’s will and the purpose of the Church. Discerning the difference is incredibly challenging for pastors who live amongst their people; it is nearly impossible across the divide of social media. During this season of intense politicization and polarization, Christians need to be wary of accusing others of idolatry and avoiding examination of our own hearts. Pastors can aid in this effort by helping their people identify idols, repent, and set their vision back upon the mission of God’s kingdom. This may seem insignificant and small when our cultural problems appear immense and widespread. Yet as Tish Warren had observed, the difficult task of “re-forming our churches around the deep, unchanging truths of the light of Christ” is inherently “frustratingly small and local.”
This week is likely to provoke many emotions but it necessitates at least one action: prayer.
Friends, regardless of who you voted for, remember we are citizens of two kingdoms; the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Jesus clearly taught, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” You don’t have to agree with our new President’s policies to pray for him. If you are practicing responsible Christian citizenship, you will soon realize when you pray for our new administration, you are praying for the country you live in. This should be something, we as Christians, want to do. I hope you will understand you don’t have to agree with someone totally to get along with them. Take the high road. Do the right thing. Bury the axe of political disgruntledness. Pray for our leadership both nationally, on a state level and local level. You will be blessed it you do. –—-David
LIVE WELL–LOVE MUCH–LAUGH OFTEN
Have a Blessed New Year!
The Irony of Christmas: The Bread of Life Put in a Feeding Trough
Ironically, the baby wrapped in cloths is laid on a manger. He is not laid on a royal, golden crib, as it would be fitting for the King of Kings, but on a feeding trough used to feed animals. Think about this for a minute. The One who created all things was indeed to become the slain Lamb of God who would give himself for the spiritual food of his people. Ironic, isn’t it?
The bread of heaven has come to feed us, and thus from His birth he is put on a feeding trough. During Holy Communion, we partake of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal food which ‘came down out of heaven” because that is the only “Food” which “endures to eternal life.”
The “bread of this world” perishes. It’s is only for this world, like our physical bodies, which is why Jesus Himself said, “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word from the mouth of God.”
The One who is wrapped in His birth and in His death is also put on the place of feeding because He had also come to be the eternal food of repentant sinners.
Jesus was ‘wrapped in swaddling clothes’ so that He might wrap us in the ‘robes of His righteousness’ Isaiah talks about (Isa. 61:10).
In a room for the animals, in a humble feeding trough, what a crazy place to put the hope of the entire world. But that is where God puts Him, isn’t it? Would you have put Jesus there if He was your Son? Most of us wouldn’t.
Jesus, who is able to free people imprisoned by their bad decisions. Jesus, who is able to give humanity a renewed relationship with their creator God. Jesus, who is able to transform individual lives and whole communities for good. Jesus, who is able to break the power of death and offer the gift of eternal life.
Jesus, the King of Glory, the Son of God, might as well have been zipped up in a used backpack, because when His family gets to Bethlehem, this teensy tiny town, not big enough for a hotel, the guest lodging is full, and they have to sleep among the animals. And when Jesus is born, his momma puts him in a feeding trough.
That’s a crazy place to put him, isn’t it?
A crazy place to put the Son of God, a crazy place to put the hope of the entire world, if you ask me.
Why a Feeding Trough?
Do you ever think about why? Why the animal room? Why a feeding trough? God is God, and every part of the nativity story has been carefully orchestrated by him. Nothing is an accident. Nothing is impossible to organize for God. It’s not like God failed to make His hotel reservations on time. Jesus could have been born anywhere in the world. Why was it so important that there was no room in the inn? Why was it so important that he be born on a hay dust floor with the animals all around?
How about we flip it around? Let’s ask some “what ifs.” What if Jesus was born in a king’s palace? What would that mean for the world? He’d certainly have had safety and privilege and access to great powers. But how would I reach him? Me. A middle class suburban girl, or if I was a poor man? Would I have had to wait in line? Or stand outside the palace gates?
What if Jesus was born in a nice suburban family home? What would that have meant for the world? It’d feel great to know that Jesus was like me, but what would it mean to the homeless folk we feed downtown on a Tuesday nights? When God commits to coming to earth, would a suburban birth say he’s too good to be like one of them?
But here, among the animals, among their sweat and dung, no one could say “That little baby is out of my reach.” No one could say, “He’s too good for me.” No one could say, “He doesn’t understand my life.”
Isaiah 57 tells us that God dwells “with the contrite and lowly of spirit, in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Isaiah teaches us that while humanity might spend all of its energy building very tall towers, God is the builder of a trench. When God had the chance to offer a gift of hope for the whole world, He put that hope where anyone in the world could reach Him.
This 2020 Christmas, don’t let the challenges we have all faced this year, pandemic, political, protests, financial, family or even emotional, keep you for reaching the manger of the One who left all to reach you where you are at, right here, right now; the unreachable Lord of glory has made Himself accessible to all who come to Him in trusting faith and a sincere willingness to turn from their ways and turn to His. So, reach out to Him for He is reaching out to you.