–December of 1999
It’s Time to Sing!
The year 2000 marks the beginning of a new millennium. Crossing this threshold of time will prove to be an extraordinary moment for the church. Two thousand years have passed since the birth of the Son of God in Bethlehem’s lowly manger, yet that birth still remains the defining moment of all history. The church has steadily marched forward and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. The unfolding centuries have brought peril and persecution but the blood of the martyrs has proven to be the seed of the church. After 2000 years we can joyfully proclaim that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! This alone ought to have the church singing as it makes its way into the new millennium.
Yet my sense is that most of the church is far from jubilant. At the moment, the steady drum beat of the Y2K fear mongers have many looking for a reasonably comfortable cave, stocked with an ample supply of dried food and pure water. Others are depressed by a culture that mocks Christian values. They rightfully fear the violence, vulgarity, meanness and instability that is endangering our communities and sliding civilization into barbarism. To make matters worse, much of the church has reacted by retreating to the safety of their religious subculture which has served only to privatize and marginalize their Christian witness.
It may be that the church strolls along with a heavy heart and a downcast look because it has forgotten something that the early church knew all too well. It has forgotten the warning of Jesus in John 16:33. Before Jesus left his disciples, he made it clear to them that tribulation is unavoidable, “In the world you shall have tribulation.” This fundamental truth seems to rub the fur of the modern church the wrong way. The early church understood it and counted it all joy when they suffered for Jesus’ sake. When Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake during the English reformation, Latimer cried to Ridley, “Have faith, Master Ridley. Today we shall light a fire that will illuminate the world!” Early Methodists faced hostile mobs, stonings and brutal beatings. They accepted it as a part of confronting a fallen culture with the claims of Christ. Today’s church around the world still offers more martyrs than any time in history. The saints of all ages have faced trying times. Jesus said that tribulation was unavoidable and we would do well to remember His words.
The trials that the church has endured have also proven true the words of Jesus that peace is available, “In me ye might have peace.” I know of no amount of grace that makes a child of God look forward to difficulty, but there is His promised peace. There is grace to help us keep our heads up and our hearts singing during the darkest of times. After weeks in a concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom asked her sister Betsy why God had allowed this to happen to them. Betsy responded, “So that when we get out of here we can tell the world that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”
Jesus also reminded us in this same verse that victory is inevitable. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The century we are about to close has done its dead level best to secularize, demoralize and destroy everything Christians hold dear. Yet secularism, modernism and radical individualism have given the world nothing but emptiness and despair. These philosophies have created a moral and spiritual vacuum which may well serve as the catalyst to launch the greatest move of God in the history of civilization. The church must be ready to seize the moment! This isn’t the time to hide in caves or adorn ourselves in the garb of a Puddleglum. We haven’t the emotional coinage to spend fretting about what might happen. This may be our finest hour! So, children of God, look up! Victory is ours! Strike up the music! It is time for the church to sing again!