As we look forward to the New Year with plans and resolutions, the voices of godly men from the past encourage us to think about something we prefer to ignore—our own death.
In all the years I’ve worked with people, I’ve yet to meet someone whose life was all messed up because he or she kept God’s commands. Yet, in a day when personal freedom is celebrated as an inalienable right, talk of conforming our lifestyle to God’s ways is often viewed as an infringement. And anyone who speaks out in favor of God’s boundaries is ruled out of bounds. But in this frenzy to be free, it should not go unnoticed that our society is increasingly marked with a haunting sense of meaninglessness and despair.
Sometimes when I want to start a fire, the wind puts it out. But when I try to keep a fire burning, wind keeps it going. So, in the first situation, I label wind “bad” because it thwarts my plans; in the other, I label it “good” because it helps me accomplish what I want to get done.
During my days as a high school basketball coach, I made a huge mistake. I sent some of my players to scout an opponent. They returned with this report: We can take those guys easily. Overconfident, we lost to that team. Does that sound familiar? To me, it sounds like the situation at Ai when Joshua sent out his scouts, who misjudged their opponent’s strength.
It seems that wherever you go these days, you see signs encouraging people to wash their hands. With the constant threat of germs and viruses spreading disease throughout the general public, health officials continually remind us that unwashed hands form the single greatest agent for the spread of germs. So, in addition to the signs calling for vigilant hand- washing, public places will often provide hand sanitizers to help take care of germs and bacteria.
Every year, I enjoy listening to the BBC’s worldwide live radio broadcast of the Christmas Eve service from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. This Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols combines Scripture readings, prayers, and choral music in a moving service of worship. One year, I was struck by the announcer’s description of the congregation leaving the magnificent chapel, saying they were “stepping out of this moment of grace and back into the real world.”
In his book Christmas 1945, Matthew Litt tells about the first peacetime Christmas celebration in the US after World War II. The New York Daily News alerted readers to expect a fleet of warships in New York Harbor: “Christmas Day will find a mighty armada, consisting of 4 battleships, 6 carriers, 7 cruisers, and 24 destroyers.” But instead of waging war, the military ships hosted 1,000 needy children.