Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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How do you go forward when the world is going backward?
When the society around you has come loose of its moorings, and is drifting into dangerous waters, how do you still stand on a firm foundation?
It’s not a hypothetical
It’s a reality for our day. It’s the defining reality of our day. We live in time of dramatic social change. Values which have been foundational to the Judeo-Christian ethic and to the culture of the United States are being jettisoned left and right.
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah foresaw a day when light would be called dark and dark would be called light, when good would be called evil and evil would be called good
We live in that day.
In the context of our heritage, everything is upside down.
Things which for millennia have been moral absolutes are mocked and dismissed by large segments of our society, often with religious leaders in the fore. Foundational principles of our American Republic and national culture are actively attacked by the larger and more successful of our political parties.
The seven deadly sins are embraced as rights, and traditional American virtues are ridiculed by the shapers of popular culture and targeted by government.
American society is either collapsing or evolving, but it is certainly changing, and it is changing in a way that is relentlessly antagonistic to the way it used to be and the way it has always been.
We are either smarter than all who have gone before us, or we are dumber, and the future of our society and our country will be determined by which it is.
In either eventuality, those who hold true to traditional values find themselves today buffeted in a social and political firestorm. The movement for diversity demands orthodoxy, and those who insist on tolerance for themselves will not extend it to others.
Those who hold true to traditional values not only don’t control the society, they are not welcomed by the society. They are vilified and mischaracterized, defined by a subversive element that has grabbed the reins of social power.
You see it on your television, you hear it on your radio, it floods the Internet and dominates the halls of power. In the churches, in the White House, in the sitcoms and on the evening news, those who are today called conservative – who were yesterday called “American” – are ridiculed and derided, depicted as undereducated and morally undeveloped.
Conservatives are not disagreed with, they are hated. No one who has seen a congressional or presidential news conference can disagree.
It is the new reality.
Those who cling to the old values are the new pariah
And it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon. The cascading transformation of American society and culture is taking on the proportions of a tidal wave. The progressive grab of political and social power is waxing, not waning, and has taken on the characteristics of a purge.
So what do you do about it?
How do you go forward when the world is going backward?
As it turns out, this is not a new problem in the history of the human experience. And, as it turns out, there is some timeless advice on how to handle it.
Jesus said, to followers whose values were fated to be steamrolled by the surrounding society, that the righteous should be “in the world, but not of the world.”
He didn’t call them out into wilderness strongholds where they could be isolated from a decaying culture. He did not call them to monasticism, he called them to evangelism. He called them to an example-setting faithfulness.
He told them to stand firm, to hold their ground, to stay true to their values and his teachings. He told them to be the light of the world, to be a city set on a hill. He told them to let their light shine so that all the world could see it. He told them to be society’s leaven – the bit of yeast that is able to make an entire loaf rise.
He recognized their minority status, he denounced the world’s changes around them, he commanded them to stand true.
He told them to be in the world, but not of the world.
That was the way forward 2,000 years ago.
And it is the way forward today.
The culture is changing, the values are being rejected, good is called evil and evil is called good. That will impact our social, political, religious and family institutions. It will bring a bitter harvest and will be the cause of much sorrow. It may bring our nation and our society to their knees, or worse.
But right will always be right and wrong will always be wrong, no matter what the politicians or the press or the sitcoms say.
And the way forward is the way it has always been. Hold high the torch of truth, be unwavering in declaring right and wrong, and the honest in heart will gather to what is right.
And society will do what society does.
Our neighbors can do what they choose to do, but we must do what is right to do. We must not be intimidated, ashamed or shouted into abandoning the truth. We must redouble our commitment to doing what is right and to set an appropriate example. We must stand for the truth.
That is the way forward.