As I write this article it is just a few days before Christmas, though it won’t be published and read until a few days after Christmas. This has caused me to reflect on how timing impacts perception and perspective. Our perceptions and perspectives change with events, developments, anticipation and fears. The “facts” are important, but frequently are not fully understood until many months or years after the fact. In some respects this is completely commonplace and ordinary. However, in some other senses, this might be considered profound.
I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. In this age of skepticism and secularism not everyone believes this any more. Regardless of your beliefs, it is incontrovertible that the life of the child born in that stable two millennia ago has had immense impact on almost everyone who has lived since then. Millions of individuals have lived and died because of their faith in and beliefs about Jesus. Some believers (and unbelievers) have killed (or been killed) by others who agreed (or disagreed) with them about who Jesus was (or was not), and what he represented. Great acts of love and mercy have also been done in His name, just as great atrocities and hatred have been done in His name. The one thing that most of us can agree upon is that Jesus has had an extraordinarily great impact upon history.
Could any of that impact have been predicted at the time of his birth in Bethlehem? Judea was a poor conquered province. (In some ways very similar to Allegany County today.) It was an unimportant backwater. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register so that the Roman Empire could impose more taxes upon them. (Some things never change.) The circumstances of his birth were somewhat scandalous, as Joseph and Mary were not officially married when Jesus was conceived. What could a child born into those circumstances possibly accomplish in life? The odds favored him living and dying in anonymous obscurity. Instead he became the focal point of much of civilization and history.
The central teaching of Christianity is that Jesus was sent by God from Heaven to save us from our fallen (sinful) condition. When I look around it seems obvious that humanity is pretty messed up. Much of the time, it’s clear that most of us are in desperate need of some serious help. Christianity claims that Jesus’s birth represents that help. In essence it is God giving us a second chance. As a very imperfect individual I am deeply thankful that God has given me not just a “second chance” but innumerable additional chances. I am also very thankful for all of the others who have shown patience and mercy to me during my life.
My faith in God and Jesus has significantly impacted every aspect of my life. I have been shown love and mercy, and have been challenged to show that same love and mercy to others. I believe we reflect the nature of God to the extent we offer second chances and mercy to others. We don’t have to be perfect to be Christians
(thankfully). We just have to acknowledge our weakness, seek forgiveness, and then allow God to show His mercy to us, and to others through us.
What does any of this have to do with my being a County Legislator? For me there is a significant connection. I find encouragement in the fact that God gave Judea, and the entire world, a second chance. We are still in need of second chances. God can still use people from humble and obscure places to accomplish amazing things, perhaps even miracles. Our County, nation and world seem to be in need of help. Especially at Christmas I am encouraged to believe that God is giving us a “second chance,” and wants to change things for the better. What do you believe?