This is Pastor Tim’s newspaper article from December 14, 2020
If you have seen the latest issue of Time Magazine, the cover art had 2020 in big print with a red line crossing it out with the subtitle “The Worst Year Ever.” That tweaked my interest, so I started reading. I wasn’t half way through the article before I chucked the magazine in the trash where it belonged.
I didn’t quit reading because I necessarily disagreed with the article; some of the facts presented were accurate. I disagreed with the bias of the author as to why those events were so bad, but I don’t know of any way that wildfires, pandemics, natural disasters and forced shutdowns are a good thing. What I disliked about the article was that the author made it sound like these things were our fault. If we would just use less fossil fuels…, if we would just take better care of each other…, if we would just wear the mask…
I officiate at a lot of funerals and not one time in 20 years of doing funerals did I ever say to a grieving family, “Well, if he would have had more salads and fewer cheeseburgers…, if he just would have not chain smoked since the 1980s…, if he just would have consumed less alcohol… Even if those things were true, I would not say them to the people who were suffering. That is why I was turned off by the article.
Even if I agreed that we may have played a role in some of the reasons that 2020 has been so difficult, what does writing that article accomplish? Take people who are isolated, lonely, jobless and unable to see family for the holidays and tell them “had you just been better…” Wrong. Just wrong. Even if I believed it was true (which I do not), this amounts to nothing more than victim shaming, which is always wrong.
For far too long, the Church has fallen into this mindset, and I can’t deny there is Biblical justification for it. There is hardly a page in the Old Testament where God isn’t showing wrath about something. But we miss the point when we look at it this way – the same point that the author of the Time Magazine article missed. What was it exactly that made God so angry in those Old Testament passages? Was it the people or the evil that influenced them? If God was angry at the people, sending destruction and mayhem because He only wanted to destroy them, then please explain to me the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, leads me beside still waters, fear no evil…” Does this sound like a hateful God? No, it sounds to me like a passionate God that wants nothing more than for His people to be safe.
If God just wanted to destroy sinners, then what on earth is going on in the Christmas story? An illegitimate Son born to a young woman in a barn, visited by shepherds and foreign kings, who went on to upset the powers that be in this world to the point that they murdered Him on our behalf? Is that a wrathful and vengeful God? “Blessed are the peacemakers, do to others what you want them to do to you, and they will know you are My followers by your love”. Does that sound vengeful?
Yes, 2020 has not been fun. The last thing we need to add to our loneliness, isolation and boredom is guilt, which seems to be exactly what this Time article wanted to achieve. There is enough despair going around. Someone needs to step up and proclaim the unchanging truth – there is hope available as long as you are willing to take it for yourself.
There are plenty of reasons to despair this Christmas season. Please try to be strong enough to make a different choice this Christmas season. Let the birth of that very special Child be a reminder that His very existence means that there is no such thing as all hope lost. Obviously, there are choices that could be made to make 2021 better and I pray that you take advantage of those opportunities. The best way you can do that is by enjoying the Christmas celebration and resolve to make 2021 be the best year it could possibly be.