- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

We are aware of the simple sights and sounds of Christmas this year, maybe more than ever before. The voices of caroling singers. The lighting of the U.S. Capitol tree. The embrace of visiting family and friends. Christmas came just in time.
This year, the seasonal phrases of "peace on earth" and "joy to the world have stirred a deep and unsatisfied longing to believe that these hopeful words are true more transcendent than simple Hallmark expressions. What began on September 11 at 8:46 a.m., continues. The rubble of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the grassy fields of Pennsylvania is slowly trucked away. But left behind are shattered lives and broken hearts desperately searching for an enduring peace and joy in the final days of a troubling year.
For many, that search has brought new birth to a national faith and virtue. But how long will it last? Without true Christianity repentance, discipleship and commitment to truth the pendulum will likely swing back, leaving people a bit more moral, a bit more churched, but without the enduring change that comes from a heart and mind transformed by the Gospel.
A generation ago, theologian Francis Schaeffer reminded us of a profound biblical question: "How should we then live?" Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson answered it 120 years earlier. When asked how he could be so courageous in battle, he replied: "My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to always be ready, no matter when it overtake me." So should it be for us.
For the Christian, the unfolding story of this world has no surprise ending. Christ, on the cross, proclaimed, "It is finished." Death that king of terrors was overcome, once and for all.
And so we can live boldly in the marketplaces, churches, halls of government, and front lines of life without the uncertainty of what lies a heartbeat away. That great certainty has led heroic believers throughout time, from Paul of Tarsus to Todd Beamer of Flight 93, to stare down death and do the impossible.
In the storms of life and in our cries for help, Christ calms the raging sea and asks us, "Where is your faith?" So we humbly follow, knowing that God calls us in our weakness to be obedient, not to be necessarily comfortable or prosperous. Like the great missionary C.T. Studd said on his way to minister in India, "Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell."
Whether ministering within a yard of Hell or within the halls of Congress, life on this side of September 11 has provided unprecedented opportunities and fearful realities. People in the highest positions of power are asking serious questions about evil, God and the afterlife. We are excited about how God is using the Center for Christian Statesmanship to direct these lawmakers and their staff to a deeper, richer understanding of Jesus Christ.
That dreadful day taught all of us on Capitol Hill that in this tenuous world, the powerful can be made powerless, the regal reduced to rubbish, and the heavenly rendered hellish. But we must remember that when we are weak, He can make us strong like the helpless babe born in the manger and the conquering act of a man on a cross.
America has changed, but the Gospel remains the same, and so does our mission at the Center for Christian Statesmanship. In times of peace or terror, prosperity or poverty, God calls us to fix our eyes on the unchanging hope of the cross, traveling like a journeyman who plods to his destination with steady, consistent steps. We can do this with full faith and joy, knowing that Christ has gone before us and will prepare us for the challenges we may face. As He has taught us, the uncertainty of tomorrow does not dissuade us from living out our faith today.
C.S. Lewis, during the darkest hours of World War II, reminded us of our simple duties as believers in the midst of trouble. "The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs."
God, in His grace, has appointed us for this moment in history. May we not cower in fear but rejoice in the celebration of the birth of His son, Jesus Christ.

Frank Wright is executive director of the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington.

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