Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In Decline, or Reborn



Currently, I am reading a book called Christmas Miracles. Yes, that's silly, maybe, and too soon. And, yes, I am getting hazy-eyed every second story in the anthology. The miracles are mostly unmysterious, human beings helping their fellow man in simple but important ways or families working through obstacles with God's guidance.

Juxtaposed to this pursuit, I have been watching Masterpiece Mystery's Wallander series this month. This week's episode dabbled in religious extremism and highlighted within the context of the fictional mystery what has been rumored or reported for years: Christianity is on the decline in Europe. Few go to the big, beautiful and mostly empty churches for services.

Marriage is also beginning to feel archaic there, and more then half of mothers in many countries now give birth as single women. The birthrate itself has fallen to the point where many countries now have a negative one.

Of those found in the pews on Sunday mornings, the majority have grey hair.

But still I like what Andrew Greeley, priest and professor at the University of Chicago, had to say about all this, "Religion is always declining and always reviving."

Humanity is riding a giant pendulum; we swing from one extreme to the other, whether it concerns methods for raising our children, materialism, nutrition, etc., and then we swing back the other way when we realize things are not going well or have gone too far. Only for a fraction of a nanosecond do we potentially hang in the balance. Individually, there is always the hope that we can swing less violently, find peace in our methods.

Essentially, that is what these Christmas miracle stories are about - finding peace and joy while trusting God or by introduction to those who do trust Him and are seeking His will. The stories, as I said, are usually very plain: a family given grocery cards by an understanding neighbor, so that they can have Christmas dinner; a dad, whose car was stolen, being helped by truckers so that he could make it home to his family in time for Midnight Mass; a young woman of the streets given hope by some special needs kids singing Christmas Carols; and a family of seven finally finding a safe home in which to live in New York City, with the help of a woman who gives them a Bible and with it, courage. Sometimes, they are more supernatural, like two silent, oddly powerful young men showing up in a small town flower shop to protect its elderly owners from being robbed.

These stories that happen to strangers, that happen to you and me or through us when we are looking for our Maker's face, defy the rumors; God is not dead. Therefore, we, His Children, are alive in the Spirit and must alight the world with the joy, love and peace that come from knowing Him..

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