The Christmas Catalyst
Time Magazine granted its Person of the Year award to "THE PROTESTER." Rather than chose a person, they chose a personification/image of real people who had significant impact in 2011-and hold promise for continuing impact in the next year. Time Magazine's choice may be somewhat unconventional, but there is much to commend the choice. Who could deny the power of the protesters in Egypt or Libya or a variety of places in the world? Recent protests in Moscow and the Occupy Movement here in the U.S. would have been on the radar screen of very few futurists at this time last year. Social ferment and social media have combined to create a potent force of influence that is rare indeed. While it is important to realize that change movements have been with us in powerful forms throughout recorded history, there is a new version of influence (for better or worse) that is now part of our collective experience globally.
In one sense, the PROTESTER is a catalyst that energizes an important event to happen and that has certainly been the case in the Middle East. But that word catalyst has an even more clarifying meaning when we remember the terms we all studied back in Chemistry 101. A catalyst, in the world of chemistry, is understood to be a substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. While there is no doubt that the 2011 PROTESTER arguably deserves recognition for the significant social impact rendered in 2011, given the rate of global change, one has to wonder if a year from now there might be another even more influential force?
During this Advent season, I also think about the impact of Jesus, not only as the proverbial "reason for the season," but as an enduring force throughout the centuries. I'm struck by the fact that Jesus cannot be entirely subsumed under the moniker "agent of change" or "transformational leader." His significance is more than the inspiration for significant change in a person's life or a movement toward a more just society. Jesus' birth is a catalyzing event. His impact has not dissipated over the centuries and His redemptive character remains unscathed by countless encounters with desperate humanity.
Luke 1 and 2 give us pictures of the enduring impact of the catalyzing impact of the birth of Jesus, that is seen with prophetic discernment, by two key players in the drama surrounding Jesus' birth. Mary's song in Luke 1:46-55 testifies to the extraordinary liberating influence of the Christ child. Not only was this to be the fulfillment of a long hoped-for equalizing event in human history, but this event would have long term impact on "Abraham and his descendants forever (v. 54).
Zechariah's prophetic word leaps from his lips with exuberance as he points to the breadth of salvation that Jesus would bring. So vast would be the impact of the salvation brought by Jesus; the measure would be that all those experiencing life in darkness would be influenced to the very reaches of where the sun daily shone on earth (Luke 1:78-79).
When I think about the impact of the PROTESTER in 2011, I am reminded about possibilities in our day that actually come to pass though means unthinkable only a short while ago. During this Advent season, I am also reminded of Jesus Christ whose redeeming mission continues to this day by the power of the Holy Spirit. The old gospel song captures this powerful Christmas truth: "There's room at the cross for you ... though millions have come there is still room for one." Jesus is not just a change agent for an era or an great idea whose "time has come." Jesus is the enduring Savior because that's who He is. No amount of hard work rescuing the perishing and caring for the dying will dissipate one iota of the capability of Jesus Christ to do what He is. May your recognition of the significance of Jesus during this Advent season be akin to another key character that first Christmas whose name was Simeon. May every follower of Jesussay with Simeon, "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people" (Luke 2:30-31).
Byron D. Klaus