Stuart Baskin, pastor at FPC Tyler, shares thoughts about the season below, with particular reference to a story told in this week's Advent devotional. This devotional is available for download from our weekly e-news and in print from the church office. Join in the conversation in the comment section.
In this week's Advent devotional, Tony Campolo's anecdote about the theft of a plastic baby Jesus from a manger scene in St. Louis raises a wonderful question. And it has nothing to do with manger scenes on courthouse lawns.
The question is—who kidnapped Jesus and turned him into a political football? Listening to the news, you'd think that the most important questions facing contemporary Christianity is whether or not we can have nativity scenes on courthouse lawns. Frankly, I cannot think of a less important issue.
I'm much more concerned about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. I'm much more concerned about sheltering the homeless and binding up the brokenhearted. There are real and important issues facing the world for which the church has something important to say. Fighting about where public displays of the faith can and cannot be placed is not one of them. In fact, I fear that picking fights over public displays serves only to deflect attention and energy away from the things that truly need our attention.
The reading from Isaiah this past Sunday proclaimed, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor . . ." (Isaiah 61:1-2a).
If I were the devil, I'd do everything in my power to distract Christians from staying focused on the central tasks of the faith. I'd do everything in my power to get them focused on trivial issues (e.g., whether plastic figurines belong on public lawns) and keep them from caring for the needs of the least and the lost. I'd do everything in my power to keep them from doing the work that Jesus himself did.
So, in the spirit of simplifying the season and keeping our focus on the work of Christ, what's one thing you can do during this annual season of hope to lift up someone who's downtrodden?
Share your ideas in the comment section below . . .