Summary: The Faith is under assault by a wicked world. In such times, believers are encouraged by the knowledge that God shall prevail; and the evidence for this truth is the eternal Word that reveals the Son of God.
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Though he battled tuberculosis throughout his life, the Anglican rector, Henry Lyte, was nevertheless a man strong in spirit and faith. Without benefit of the powerful, almost miraculous medications that are readily available to those suffering from tuberculosis in this day, the dread disease progressed and his health deteriorated, until at last he was forced to seek a warmer climate in Italy.
On September 4, 1847the good rector’s final sermon was preached to the parishioners gathered at Lower Brixham, England. It is recorded that the pastor nearly had to crawl to the pulpit before delivering that final message to his congregation. From the pulpit, he proclaimed, “It is my desire to induce you to prepare for the solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely appreciation and dependence on the death of Christ.”
Shortly before that final sermon, Lyte was inspired to write a hymn that has blessed the people of God—whatever their communion—in the decades since. I cannot help but wonder if the hymn writer thought of the verses of our text when he wrote these words:
Abide with me—fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens—Lord, with me abide;
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,
help of the helpless, O abide with me!
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me!
I need Thy presence ev’ry passing hour—
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Thru cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy word before my closing eyes.
Shine thru the gloom and point me to the skies;
heav’n’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee—
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Though our world is defined by change and decay, this text assures us that there is certainty for all who hold firmly to the eternal Word of the Lord. We who follow the Risen Son of God know that we may rest secure in the knowledge that our times are in His hand and that we are safe from death that marks this dying world. The Advent Season must become for all who know their God a time of preparation for what is surely coming. To be certain, we rejoice in the knowledge of His first advent, but it is the anticipation of His return to receive us to Himself that causes us to exult in Him and in His mercy.
THE DEATH OF OUR CULTURE — This could be the last Christmas celebrated in this Church Age, this Age of Grace. The shadows are lengthening; the sun is setting on Christian civilisation in the west. Culture as we have known it is experiencing a cataclysmic upheaval. Wickedness is in the ascendency; righteousness stands far away and truth has stumbled in the public squares [see ISAIAH 59:14]. If the outline of history as provided in the opening chapters of the Apocalypse is correct, then it seems apparent that we are entering, if not already present in, the final dispensation—the Laodicean era.
Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, standing at a window in the Foreign Office, watching the lamps being lit as dusk approached, famously remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.” The occasion for that dark statement was Germany’s declaration of war against France on August 3rd, 1914.
Some two decades later, on the cusp of yet another world war, Winston Churchill pleaded with the people of the United States of America, unequivocally stating, “The lights are going out.” The occasion for that speech was the growing restrictions on free speech and an increase in assaults again Jews perpetuated by Germany.
A similar alarm must be sounded today as the lights are going out in the west. Despite denials from self-serving politicians, and a multiplication of agnostics and atheists together with religious sympathisers who live as though God was not a factor in our continued existence, the western world was founded on the Faith of Christ the Lord. When the Faith is marginalised, whether through direct assault or through neglect, the lights will indeed be extinguished.
Despite a current recession that threatens the extravagant lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed, this is nevertheless an era marked by unprecedented luxury and ease. Modern Canadians enjoy lives that would have been unimaginable to earlier generations, a lifestyle that was utterly unknown to our fathers. Consequently, the culture of convenience and comfort in which we now live has surely dulled the spiritual perspicuity of professed followers of the Lamb. We modern Christians enjoy an entertaining sermon, though we are uncertain about being challenged from the pulpit. Should the preacher call us to repentance—a return to righteousness, like inhabitants of some hot, sleepy Southwestern village roused from our midday siesta, we murmur, “Mañana! Mañana!” to any call for action.