"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." - Hebrews 13:8
By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.
Iget a big kick at the beginning of every new year reading those magazines and news articles that detail for us the expected trends for the coming year. More akin to a "what's in and what's out" list, it is a genuine effort put forth by people who supposedly keep their fingers on the pulse of the American public.
For instance, ladies, did you know long skirts and dresses are declared out of fashion for 2006? Other styles cast away include large purses, big hats and designer perfumes. Gentlemen, you can now put away your double-breasted suits and white shirts, because they, too, are out.
Short skirts and dress lengths just above the knee are predicted to return to fashionable status for women, and pink ties and cowboy boots are "in" for men. You figure out that one. Somehow, I can't imagine my cowboy hero Clint Eastwood in a pair of western boots with a pink tie.
Also declared outdated for 2006 are VCRs, CD players, SUVs, and network news.
On the other hand, "what's in" this new year makes a lengthy list. The list includes: iPods, cell phones with as many functions as a Swiss Army knife, vitamin D, Starbucks-the company opens four shops every day-satellite radio, colored wrist bands made popular by cycling champion Lance Armstrong, and "dress down" (casual) Fridays.
Once again, good health is "in" this year. From the low-carb food we are urged to eat to exercise apparel and exercise equipment we are encouraged to wear and use-it's all "in." Anything to do with physical conditioning is definitely "in," and I have only one question to ask: Have you purchased your home Pilates gym yet? On the other hand, anything not related to improving our health is definitely "out": high cholesterol numbers; and vices such as smoking, drinking, and eating fatty foods.
The focus on our environment is making a strong comeback for 2006. We witnessed the fury of the elements this past summer and fall, and that has moved us to think more about taking better care of this place we call Earth. Included with those thoughts, you will also find major concerns about the fossil fuels that heat our homes and run our cars.
High energy prices are really, really "in" for the coming year-as if you didn't know that already.
Doesn't it warm your hearts to know there exists a devoted group of men and women with nothing to do other than make us feel bad about our lifestyles and about what we eat? However, before you go and sell all your beautiful clothes and completely change your eating habits, WAIT!
Find a nice corner in your closet and neatly put those clothes away for a time; I assure you that they will become stylish again in the not-too-distant future. And the food we are encouraged to eat today that's supposed to keep us alive forever-it, too, someday will have warning labels attached, just like some foods today.
The point I want to make is: Everything around us is in a state of constant change.Change is not isolated, not limited to food and fashion and health.
There are other areas I want us to consider as well as those.
Change is in thoughts, ideas, and worship
In the last few years, new modes of thought and new points of view have replaced older ways of thinking. The 21st century brought great changes in our conditions of life and in our ideas.
Doctrines once seen as the cornerstones of our beliefs are now questioned as never before. Theories and philosophies written for today's "modern man and woman" question everything from intelligent design to life after death. People once believed in the gods of Greece and Rome. Who believes in them today?
Even our worship has changed. Years ago, we worshipped in our sanctuaries in one way: traditional. Now there are "fighting" words, such as "contemporary" and "blended." We have discovered worship can be done any day of the week, not just on Sunday mornings. We even have "drive-in" churches that resemble the drive-in movies of decades ago.
The medium of spreading the gospel has gone from eyewitnesses to televangelists. Today there are no fewer than 50 worship offerings on television during any given week.
All these changes lead me to ask: Where are we headed? What will we believe in the years to come? What will we wear, how will we worship, and what God will we follow?
Many pundits of the modern world wonder if the human race will be here at all.
The changes heralded from year to year and dire predictions across the ages would drive some people to withdraw into skepticism and doubt-but, to the person of faith, I have a good word for you to begin this new year.
It is from the Book of Hebrews, and it holds me steady and brings comfort to my soul in an ever-changing world:
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever!"
The one place we can find absolute permanence, eternal reliability, is in a person: Jesus Christ.
This was a bold thing to say during the time the Book of Hebrews was written; it seems no less bold to declare it today.
Nonetheless, it is true.
When we think of predictions from the past, a great deal has been proven wrong. But the teaching of Jesus is alive for us even to the present days. The subjects with which he deals are pertinent issues for us. Translate what he said into present-day language, and at once his words have present-day values.
Jesus is far ahead of the 21st century, advanced as we humans may think we are. There is no prospect of exhausting what he taught. His teaching is a veritable mine of precious truths, of which only a comparatively few have been unearthed.
There is depth of meaning in Jesus' sayings that will give exercise to the greatest minds unto the end of time.
Jesus remains the same because he is always adapting himself to change. He spoke to Jews in the language of their inherited ideas. He spoke to a larger world through the medium of Greek thought. To every age, he speaks in the tongue that is understood. He is the unchanging friend. He is the eternal answer to all human need.
He is eternally alive because he eternally works. He is present, near to us, within reach, within hearing.
Speak. He will hear. Stretch out your hand. He will grasp it. Ask him to save you, and he will. Ask him for eternal life, and he will give it to you. Ask him to guide and help you at this moment, and he will. The man who went about doing good is on the spot now to do good for you.
The one important question in our world of change is this: What do you think of Christ?
If you think you have outgrown his teachings, his compassion, his words, and his love, then you will be swept up in the whirlwind of change and turmoil. But if you think of him as being the same yesterday, today, and forever, as the one you can call any time of the day, then you possess the key that will unlock the door to eternal life.
May the never-changing Christ be with you in an ever-changing world. May our journey together in 2006 be a thrilling adventure that leads us back to the Christ who has always been "in."