The average person in the today's world has little regard for religion. "It is made up of obsolete traditions and has no relevance for me," is the response of many today.
Frankly, I, too am not impressed by many expressions of religion. Some have been and may still be more harmful than helpful.
"But what about Jesus"? I might ask.
Again the response might be to point out that He lived more than 2000 years ago and to ask, how could he be relevant?
He never used a cellphone, an iPod or a landline telephone. He knew nothing about electricity or computers. He never drove a car, rode in a train or flew on a plane. He never went to college. He was no PhD. He never wrote a book. His travels went no farther than about 60 miles from his hometown of Nazareth, in an occupied region of Galilee. He seemed to have lacked diplomacy because he offended the establishment with his teachings, and so was arrested, tried, condemned and crucified as a criminal when he was only about 33 years old.
How could such a person have anything of relevance to say to us in this challenging, advanced, exciting and sometimes frightening 21st century?
Maybe we should first ask, "What is our greatest need?" Getting a new TV? Getting to Mars? Getting more money? Getting ... getting ... we seem to always need more. Are those really our needs?
Maybe a more thoughtful response would be, "finding peace in our war-torn world, eliminating hunger, poverty, injustice and crime." Meeting those needs calls for wisdom in our actions and reactions. From personal satisfaction to universal harmony, human relationships are involved, and that is precisely where Jesus becomes the most relevant teacher on Earth.
When we celebrate his advent, we remember the angelic announcement of "peace on earth". His greeting was "peace," his promise was "peace," and his achievement was "peace" with God and neighbor; a victory enjoyed by those who follow his way of love.
Before we dismiss the word "love" as nave, it might be helpful to recognize that no motivation is more powerful, more healing or more relevant to human relations than the generous, selfless love taught and demonstrated by Jesus. Like it or not, the need for forgiveness and reconciliation among people can only be achieved by a genuine commitment to that kind of gracious love.
We are not called to ignore evil. We are called to overcome evil with good, with actions of love, guided and empowered by God's Spirit. That is the only way to peace.
On the subject of relevance, there is one more thing that's a ‘for sure'. We all die. What, therefore, could be more relevant than trusting the one who has taken care of this universal problem? By the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has conquered both sin and death. Jesus' way of love leads to joy and peace in how we live and how we die.
Now, that's relevant!
The Rev. Randy Klassen is retired from the Evangelical Covenant Church. To write, call Catherine Hicks, 509-526-8312. firstname.lastname@example.org.