Lord, first of all, thank you for the careful and creative way in which you have designed this world. You have made this planet a marvelous place, filled with life and beauty. It is a privilege to recognize that we humans are a part of your amazing invention.
Having said that, it is necessary to also say we are sorry. We are sorry for our poor stewardship of the earth. We have not been very careful with the air and the water. We have also not been very careful with certain forms of life. We have acted as if ours was the only existence that matters. Apparently we forgot what Jesus said about you and the sparrows.
We have also not been very good stewards of the resources that sustain life. Many of us living in the developed nations have become a highly acquisitive people. It’s almost as if we believe that the purpose of our humanity is to get our hands on as much stuff as possible. There are many who look to their earthly treasures as the true source of their security and meaning. You used the word idolatry to describe that kind of thinking.
Sadly, our pursuit of things has also created a dismal state of affairs in our relations with each other. We’ve got it all backwards from what you intended. Instead of loving people, as you taught, we use people to get what we want. Instead using things to make life better, we love things and cling to them as if they were life itself.
This tragic reversal has had dire consequences. Our greedy consumption has created a world of poverty for millions—as our wealth grows, so does their poverty. And we keep fighting one bloody war after another, taking the lives of your children, trying to protect our stuff.
In fact, that touches on one of our most difficult problems—our love of violence. We treat violence in our culture as if it were a sacred rite. We believe in violence. We cherish it, we celebrate it. We teach it to our children as if we were passing along a spiritual heritage. We have endowed violence with a trust and a hope that should be reserved for you. We believe violence can conquer evil. We believe violence can make peace. We believe violence can end violence. You would think that 50,000 years of human experience would convince us otherwise, but not yet.
That is why Christmas is so important. The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on your part to re-shape our flawed humanity back into your own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.
Somewhere along the way this Christmas we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A child shall lead them.” We are drawn to the innocence of the nativity with a sense of wonder and longing. We believe that Jesus is that child.
But he cannot lead us if we do not follow. And he cannot change us so long as we insist on having things our own way.
Help us this year to finally admit that our way is not working and for once, just for once, try doing things his way. Amen.
James L. Evans is pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.