No one can have escaped the hype surrounding the imminent start of the third millennium. Her Majesty’s Government is wasting millions on the Millennium Dome whilst the starving of the world cry for food; employers are expecting unprecedented absenteeism due to over-consumption of alcohol; hospitals are wondering how they will cope with the anticipated accidents (and worse) caused by revelry; people are spending thousands of pounds for just one night’s stay in some of London’s hotels, and the world is planning for a booze-sodden party.
And all this, supposedly, to celebrate the birth of the ‘holy child, Jesus’. God’s name will be ‘blasphemed among the Gentiles’ by those who claim to be Christian by right of British birth.
We feel instinctively that true Christians cannot be associated with this kind of thing without tainting ourselves with the ungodliness of it all. If ‘celebrating the millennium’ means going along with all this, then our response must be ‘no thanks’.
Putting on a show
Even the plans of the big denominations fail to excite our sympathy. It almost seems that the incarnation of Christ, which the millennium is all about, lies buried under a PR exercise, designed to show that the church can put on a good show. The elaborate Roman Catholic proposals, and an Anglican youth jamboree planned for Wembley, simply prove the point that the millennium is best forgotten by those who have a better grasp of gospel principles. The fact that the celebration of festivals belongs to the Old Testament, not the New, is also a factor to be taken into account. To the Christian the only special day is a weekly one – Resurrection Day!
We have seen how Christmas and Easter have become the focus for ritualistic religion and superstitious practice. Some might feel it is bad enough having to seize those occasions as opportunities for preaching the gospel to an otherwise unchurched society, without adding another of like kind.
Really, the ‘decider’ is that the millennium has already occurred. We are four to eight years too late! The Roman monk who calculated the birth of Jesus, and thus the start of our dating system, got it wrong. It has never been put right. We have missed the millennium – so why bother with it now? It is like sending a ‘sorry I forgot your birthday’ card.
So, then, is there anything to be said for celebrating the millennium? Perhaps the use of the word ‘celebrate’ is inappropriate but, for all the foregoing objections, it seems to me that the date should not pass unnoticed. We would do the gospel a disservice if we were to ignore the opportunities for true and faithful witness with which this day presents us.
Paul seized just such an opportunity when he saw the altar to an unknown god in Athens. A heathen altar, with all that conjures up in the mind, was his starting-point. The millennium could be ours.
Hearts and minds
Paul went into the market place – not just a place for buying vegetables, but where the serious things of life and the spirit were debated. We must go into such ‘market places’ today. At a time like this, some curiosity will be aroused in many hearts and minds regarding the significance of the Christian message. They will be ‘in the market’ for an answer. The younger generations are especially ignorant of Christianity – the facts, doctrine and history.
Should we leave it to those whose ‘Christianity’ we criticise, to explain what it is all about? Are we to leave those unsuspecting browsers in the market of ideas to the spiritual spivs and the religious rip-off merchants? Surely not! ‘So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’ (Psalm 90:12).