by Andrew Barringer, Treasurer, Glen Burnie United Methodist Men Presented to on December 11, 2021 at the Glen Burnie UMMen Breakfast
It is written, “The Lord moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform...” (William Cowper)
And what wonders he hath wrought!
At this time of year, it is easy to forget the true wonders this world has seen. It’s too easy to get lost in the bright lights and the “seasonal” music, or the ‘extra-special sales on anything you can possibly want!’ But these are fleeting and we often welcome the new year with tarnish already on those promises of joy and fulfillment.
But if you are willing to look past the glitz and glamour that we have added to Christmas, you will see that it never needed those in the first place.
Look again to the Scriptures, and see a true wonder: the first Christmas (obviously, not in December, but that’s a debate for another time)!
What the world saw was a young married couple who, on their travels, forgot to make hotel reservations, and wound up spending a night in the barn (literally). This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I’m going to relate. What we call the Old Testament speaks again and again of the coming of the Lord. These words were the Holy Scriptures and prophecies of the Israelites, and even though they had been waiting for nearly two millennia, they didn’t recognize the truth when they saw it. Their religious leaders looked to specific verses and said “See! This cannot be!”
It took wise men from distant lands, who relied on their own religions and portents to see the truth. Though it is unlikely that they even had the benefit of our Scriptures, they approached an ordinary child on bended knee and were (I believe) forever changed. It was Herod, a Roman (and a polytheist, if anything), who upon hearing even the rumor of a king’s birth ordered the murder of all children in his district. The chosen people slept, then wept. They never saw the truth in the Words God had given them.
The world saw a carpenter’s son turned preacher. They saw a man accused of heresy and hung upon a cross unto death. They heard rumors of his resurrection and passed it off as such. Today we find ourselves drawing every nearer to the two thousandth anniversary of his execution, and yet we still speak of that carpenter’s son. Is that not a wonder?
On May 30, 1431, the world saw a young peasant girl burnt alive for heresy. Her sin? She was accused of conversing with demons (although, if you read the trial transcripts they seem more concerned with the cutting of her hair and her wearing of combat attire, i.e. “men’s clothing). Despite her judges being the most educated religious scholars of the known world, they were regularly out-argued by an illiterate nineteen-year-old girl raised on a farm. Her defense? ‘In all things, I shall first defer to God.’ Today, she is remembered as a national hero, and the same group that ordered her executed holds her up as a paragon.
This past Tuesday was December 7. On that date eighty years ago, a young man raised to believe his emperor was a living god was given the distinct honor of leading an early morning assault against his nation’s enemies. Personally blessed by his emperor, his raid was immensely successful, and he returned home a national hero. He reveled in worldly glory and accolades. But like the prodigal son, he still felt empty, and his life fell apart. Yet, as we are commanded to do, he found Christ and was born again. In a few short years, he returned to the nation he had attacked. This time as a guest of a television show. That “Hour of Decision” aired December 7, 1952 (eleven years to the day after his earlier appearance). This time, instead of bombs, he brought (through an interpreter) a message of love, mercy, and the One True God.
Are these not wonders?
The Bible was written by more than a dozen authors over a period of approximately two thousand years. The last chapter was written over nineteen hundred years ago and has yet to be disproven. The Bible shows again and again how people couldn’t see what was right in front of them (and in some cases, made blind) just so that God’s wonders could come to pass. His own people denounced him, yet men and women born two thousand years earlier had predicted his coming and rejoiced. Even in his sorrow, Jeremiah spoke of the Hope of Israel (Jeremiah 23: 5-6). Today, we know that hope as the Messiah, sent among us as the Emmanuel (“God with us”).
To me, these are the true wonders inspired by the season. God’s true wonders are not found in twinkle lights at the auto lot or 50% off sales at the local department store. Although it is pretty amazing what you can find these days in a rainforest, it cannot be bought on Amazon. The greatest wonder of all is the Plan made by God, and fulfilled through us, and often in spite of us.
We, like the Israelites of two thousand years ago, find ourselves today in a world of turmoil, and we, like them, have a choice. Do we embrace the “truths” of the fleeting secular world or the Truth that has stood for thousands of years? Do we go with the flow, bending the Word to fit what the secular world tells us it should be or do we say, “The entirety of this was given to us. The entirety is important and unchanged”?
As Dickens’ Marley lamented: “Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the wise men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?” Let us, this season, remember to look up and look to the wonders the Lord has provided, and live in his Word, that perhaps we may be a star for someone else. Would that not be wondrous?