Friday, December 24, 2010


Here's something I originally posted on Christmas Eve 2008. What's funny is that it could have been written today. Once again I'm finishing up the year by reading the minor prophets, we have a baby on the way, and this evening I'll be helping to serve Holy Communion at our church. He is faithful!

It's been a rich feast to finish up my year-long journey through the Bible with the minor prophets. If I stay on schedule I'll finish Malachi and Revelation tomorrow. With a baby on the way I don't know if I'll be able to keep up the same reading pace next year, but I wouldn't want to go an entire year without studying these sometimes neglected parts of scripture. If you never have done so, I'd urge you to get a good study Bible and dig in to Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc. The prophet Zechariah provides a marvelous picture of shalom (perfect peace, total well-being) in chapter 8. In Zechariah 8:8 are the familiar, comforting words "they shall be my people, and I will be their God..." This is the culmination of the covenant and of history, where it's all heading, both for them and for us as new covenant believers (Revelation 21:3-4).

In addition to this, I was struck by the multi-generational picture of this shalom. Zechariah 8:4-5 pictures the streets of Jerusalem full of children playing as parents and grandparents look on. This is a picture of true community, a neighborhood if you will. Shouldn't our churches reflect that? I think we go wrong by copying Madison Avenue and segmenting everything according to age. Shannon and I attend (and I occasionally teach) a Sunday school class at our church that's known as the "young adult" class. I put it in quotes because we have everyone from college students to grandparents in there. I love it. I'd get tired of going to Sunday school or church with people just like us and hearing only about subjects that our age group is supposedly interested in. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for that kind of ministry. We also have a weeknight group for young married couples. But the main focus, Lord's Day worship and Sunday school, is kept intentionally as multi-generational as possible.

There's another aspect to shalom that we aren't doing as well as I'd like us to. That's the multi-ethnic aspect. We should better reflect the fact that we're in a community that's becoming more diverse by the day. In Zechariah 8:20-23 the prophet gives what would have been a surprising message to his hearers. "The inhabitants of many cities" and "many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem." What? We've just been delivered from the shackles of Gentile oppression and now you're telling us that those people are going to be coming here to seek our God. Segue to Christmas as we celebrate the coming of the light of the world, the hope of the nations.

Tonight in my role as an elder I'll have the privilege of helping to serve the bread and the wine as we celebrate communion during our Christmas Eve service. It will be a reminder that the warm glow of "Silent Night" gave way to "that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, the emblem of suffering and shame." "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9) This is the gospel in a nutshell. Note that Paul puts it in the middle of a letter about giving gifts. Wishing you all the peace and joy of Christmas, and looking forward to that day when our Messiah returns to bring lasting shalom to this troubled world.

Photo above of present-day Bethlehem, West Bank

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