This post is from the JMBzine Blog Vault, which means it is a very old blog post that I wrote at a very different time in my life. My views on religion (I’m now a Humanistic Jew), politics (today I’m a Democratic Socialist), and many other subjects (including LGBTQ+ inclusion, abortion rights, etc.) have drastically changed over the years, so please bear this in mind when reading this post.
Opinion from Exitzine.com: Thoughts From The Sleep Deprived…From a World of Teachable Moments #1 – Millenial Musings
On the last morning of the previous millennium, I woke up at 3:50 a.m.
Why did I get up so early? No, Armageddon hadn’t hit yet. The only thing going on in the Branum household was the cries of my four-month-old twin brothers. The real reason I got up wasn’t exclusively brotherly concern, though. Instead, I wanted to watch the very first nations of the world cross into the new millennium.*
The first broadcasts were from Kiribati and Tonga. The celebration in Tonga (sometimes called “the most Christian nation in the world”) was especially memorable, as they had a giant choir of Tongans dressed in white, with the King of Tonga leading the group in singing the Alleluia Chorus. It was truly awesome to see this nation ringing in the new Millennium with praise to God.
Editorial Note (2022): Here is a youtube video of this event.
Throughout the rest of the day, I watched many other celebrations in the great cities of the world, yet the image of the Tongans remained in my mind. Sure, the other celebrations were incredible, full of pageantry, fireworks, music, and dancing. Millions upon millions of dollars were spent, and millions of people attended the celebrations. Yet most who watched didn’t understand the real significance of the moment. Amidst the fanfare, the fireworks, and the around-the-clock coverage, most folks forgot one important question-why?
Why is this occasion so meaningful that the entire world stops to watch? When we get past all the hype, is there something beyond a computer glitch or the year changing to a nice round number that should merit this much attention?
I think that there is. The world has forgotten that the year 2000 is the year 2000 A.D. This may seem insignificant, until you consider this–
An-no Dom-i-ni Latin In the year of our Lord or of the Christian era: abbr. A.D.
(from Funk & Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary, International Edition)
This New Year’s is special because it marks the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, a time very worthy of celebration for all Christians.**
However, it also provides us, the Body of Christ, with the greatest “teachable moment” in recent history. But what exactly is a “teachable moment”? According to one of my professors, a teachable moment is an event or occasion that provides a ready-made illustration that can be used to teach. In evangelism, a teachable moment provides an entryway into sharing something about our faith to non-believers.
The new millennium is a ready-made teachable moment. The best way to use it? First, we should remind ourselves, as believers in Christ, of the real meaning of “Anno Domini” and the significance of Christ’s birth. It is only when we fully understand the weight of this moment that we can use it in teaching non-believers about Christ.
As Christians, we’ve heard countless times the story of Christ’s birth, but all too often we forget what the birth really means. For believers, the birth is the event in which, God, the Creator of heaven and earth, lowered himself to the level of humankind. He didn’t just speak to us or visit us-He became one of us!
How can we even begin to comprehend the ultimate humility of God’s choice to be born in the most humble of circumstances? Though it’s hard for us to imagine, God himself was a fetus alive in Mary’s womb. He passed through the birth canal. Jesus was a baby. And just as any other baby, he had to deal with all the limitations that babies have. Brace yourselves for this, folks, but Jesus had dirty diapers. Mary had to feed him, burp him, and bathe him. “The Word” was unable to use words, but could only cry for his mother’s attention.
We can never even begin to understand what this would be like. But maybe, in a sense we can understand. Jesus was a person, just like us. He experienced the human experience first-hand. He truly was Emmanuel, or “God with us.”
As an adult, Jesus was just a regular, blue-collar kind of guy, much like a lot of us. He was an apprentice with his dad and learned the trade of carpentry. His hands were probably callused and his muscles sore from the manual labor. You can bet that he was even hot and sweaty after a hard day’s work.
While Jesus never married, he did take on significant family responsibilities. When his stepfather Joseph died, Jesus took on the responsibilities of taking care of his mother, as well. We also know that he had several brothers and sisters, and he must have dealt with the frustrations that all siblings experience with each other.
At age 30, Jesus left his job as a carpenter and embarked on a three-year traveling ministry. During that time, Jesus walked the length and breadth of Palestine with his band of followers. He had sore and dirty feet from walking on the dusty roads and on the rocky ground of the Judean hill country. He dealt with bickering disciples, hypocritical religious leaders, and followers who were only interested in his message if free food was involved.
At the end of his earthly ministry, he was betrayed by one of his followers and was put through a mockery of a trial. He was beaten, ridiculed, and finally killed in a humiliating and brutal fashion.
In his death, we see what appeared to be the end of the road for Jesus and the final defeat of God’s plan of redemption. In this moment, we see the utter hopelessness of what the earth would be like without God. Even the earth itself couldn’t be still at this moment, but shook in horror at what had occurred. The sky turned dark, and history truly reached its darkest point. God in the flesh was dead.
However, the story is not over. Jesus rose from the dead-Emmanuel came back! How could God go back to the people that mistreated him so? How could he stand to look into the eyes of those who deserted him? How could he forgive them?
Yet, he did. He was truly human, but he was also truly God. It is in the resurrection of Jesus that we see Jesus as Emmanuel once again. But he went against human nature and chose to forgive. And in so doing, he showed us once and for all the example we’ve been called to follow-though we are truly human, we are called to be like God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3 (NASB)
Anno Domini 2000 is our opportunity to tell this great story, which is truly the greatest love story ever told. In the great book of romance (the Bible), we read from beginning to end of God’s love for man. God would do and has done everything possible to see mankind accept his offer of love. He proved it once and for all when He became one of us.
Thus, my prayer for the New Year is that all who claim the name of Jesus would share his story and share the living hope that Christ’s life brings.
* Since there is no year 0 A.D., the third millennium technically will begin on January 1, 2001.
** Scholars now believe that the original calculation of the date of the birth of Jesus occurred four to six years earlier than originally thought.
—James M. Branum
Editor’s Note (2022):This content was originally posted at Exitzine.com and was recovered via archive.org.