FAQ for The Star of 2000
by Jay Gary
This is a list of frequently asked questions about Christ's 2,000th anniversary, including its foundations, its festivities and future for the jaygary.com (Version 1.1, June 1999)
Introduction to Christ's 2,000th Jubilee
1.1 Why is Christ's 2,000th birthday significant?
1.2 Hasn't Jesus' 2,000th anniversary passed already?
1.3 How does this relate to the Second Coming of Christ?
1.4 In what ways is the person of Christ unique?
1.5 Are there precedents to celebrate the year 2000?
1.6 How is our approach to A.D. 2000 changing in this decade?
1.7 Who first called for Christ to receive tribute in 2000?
1.8 How will this anniversary develop from now to 2001?
1.9 Is the year 2000 exclusively a Christian anniversary?
1.10 Should the church expect counter-commemorations?
1.11 What should the advent of the third millennium mean?
1.12 How does this differ from New Age celebrations?
1.13 What plans are announced for Christ's 2,000th jubilee?
1.14 What can I do to honor Christ in light of his anniversary?
Subject: Part 1--INTRODUCTION TO CHRIST'S 2,000TH JUBILEE
Welcome to 2000 A.D. on the information super highway! The "Star of 2000" rest stop is right ahead. As we approach the breaking of the third day, they say the view is splendid from cyberspace. So pull over and rest a bit before going on. They say if you lift your eyes to the horizon, you can see the Morning Star arising.
"CELEBRATION 2000 AD"
by George Heiner (c) 1990 Action Music
There is a sun which never sets
There is the Son that brings real rest
And His Spirit is speaking so clear
A celebration, its oh so near
Celebration, Celebration 2000 AD
Celebration, Celebration, a joyful reprieve
A celebration of praise and honor to Him.
Celebration, Celebration 2000 AD
Celebrate Christ Jesus,
From our sins he freed us
We are his children
So blessed and free,
He is our refuge through eternity
Spread the word till the sun sets
Spread the word to all the rest
Share all of what Jesus brings
Share his blessings, so join in and sing
Subject: 1.1 WHY IS CHRIST'S 2,000TH BIRTHDAY SIGNIFICANT?
Regardless of differing opinions about Jesus, it is hard to dispute the fact that his coming into the world nearly 2,000 years ago ranks as the most significant event in human history.
Though many of his followers have failed to stay true to his spirit, this humble carpenter of Nazareth has touched and enriched practically every sphere of human greatness.
Few if any have inspired more art, literature, music or charity than Jesus. His message has shaped almost every aspect of human life and society. His triumph over suffering has brought hope to those who carry heavy crosses of their own. His presence has even influenced the calendar by which we mark our years.
The arrival of the year 2000 will undoubtedly be marked by extensive fanfare. At the heart of these commemorations, however, should be a magnificent observance of Christ's 2,000th anniversary.
Countries go all out to celebrate the birthdays of their founders and great leaders. At the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, how much more should the church honor the one who liberated not just a single nation, but all humanity from slavery to sin.
The year 2000 may just be another year, but there will never be another Jesus. He is worthy of the greatest celebration in the history of civilization.
Subject: 1.2 HASN'T JESUS' 2,000TH ANNIVERSARY PASSED ALREADY?
"Yeah, they meant to count from the birth of Christ, but they messed up!" Some people might discount any relationship of Christ to the year 2000 since they assume, as most historians do, that Jesus was born by 4 B.C. This would put his 2,000th anniversary in 1997.
Technically, the purists are right. The sixth century monk who tied our calendar to Christ failed to add in four years of Caesar Augustus' reign, and thereby late-dated our calendar in reference to the birth of Christ.
But let's go a step further. It is not uncommon for major anniversaries to be celebrated on days other than their actual dates. Americans don't even celebrate George Washington's birthday on the actual anniversary, but rather on the established anniversary date. The same will hold true for Christ's 2,000th jubilee and the advent of the third millennium.
Subject: 1.3 HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST?
It doesn't. Commemorating the year 2000 has very little to do with making predictions as to when Christ will return. As the century's end approaches, many people are coming down with a full blown case of "millennial fever." They are gripped by either fear or fantasy. Rather than be overtaken by millennial fever, it is time for millennial faith to arise.
Rather than speculate on the Second Coming of Christ, the year 2000 calls us to remember the First Coming. Rather than fixate on the signs of the times, the year 2000 calls us to stand in awe of its treasure. Rather than worry about what is wrong with society, Christ's 2,000th jubilee invites us to ask what is right with society, and how did it get that way--in light of the child who was born.
Subject: 1.4 IN WHAT WAYS IS THE PERSON OF CHRIST UNIQUE?
"If Shakespeare should come into this room, we would all rise," wrote Charles Lamb, "but if Jesus Christ should come in, we would all kneel." Jesus is in a class all by himself. Far from just an anniversary of time, the year 2000 is an anniversary of the divine.
If it were time to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of Aristotle, or the 100th of Einstein, we would take another look at philosophy or physics. In light of the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation of Christ, we should take another look at Life.
From 1999 to 2001, we will be at a unique position to weigh the life and impact of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be appropriate for anyone to ask, "What is unique and universal about the life of Christ?" and "Why has this poor man from Nazareth so deeply affected the cultures who followed him over the past twenty centuries?"
In addition to honoring his memory, for those who know him as their Lord it will be a time to worship His majesty. Two millennia ago, God entered time in a unique way, born of woman, born in a manger--and time and eternity was forever transformed.
Subject: 1.5 ARE THERE PRECEDENTS TO CELEBRATE THE YEAR 2000?
In the popular press many have looked to the year 1000 for clues as to what 2000 might bring. Rather than festivity, the year 1000 called forth fear--or so we are led to believe. But the "legend of the year 1000" is just that--a legend. According to the last hundred years of scholarship, a widespread "panic terror" across Europe never happened in 999. The legend of the year 1000 was largely a creation by 18th century writers who wished to portray the medieval society as superstitious. Ironically, modern society, not medieval believers, seems to be infected with "millennial madness."
Perhaps the best precedent for what A.D. 2000 could mean is the ancient "Year of Jubilee." During this Sabbath of sabbath years, fields were not sowed, nor vines pruned. Outstanding debts were canceled, land was returned to its original owners and indentured servants were set free. The Jubilee was a holy year marked by reconciliation among families and communities.
The Year of Jubilee was something far more than a social leveling program. At its essence was the call to come into the presence of the Almighty and celebrate his greatness. This year-long festival encompassed the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, only raised to a high level.
As then, Jesus invites us today to experience his jubilee. On the last and greatest day of the Feast of the Tabernacles, Christ "stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink'" (John 7:37)
What was once just a fifty-year event, or the moment of a captive people set free, has become a perpetual jubilee. What was once released in a "year of redemption," has become available in an epoch without end, through the cross of Christ.
Through prayer and preparation, the year 2000 could be experienced in our communities and congregations as a "once-in-a-lifetime" Year of Jubilee, giving a new lease on life to everyone.
Subject: 1.6 HOW IS OUR APPROACH TO A.D. 2000 CHANGING IN THIS DECADE?
Until now most people have thought of A.D. 2000 in terms of a "decade of destiny." None of us will ever forget how the last half of 1989 opened a new epoch in world history. First communism collapsed in Poland, then Germany, followed by Czechoslovakia, and finally Romania. By the end of 1989 the Berlin Wall was down and we knew in our hearts that the Cold War had ended.
As we entered the 1990s many proclaimed it a "decade of evangelism." Practically every major denomination dedicated the years 1991-2000 to world outreach. In addition, more than 100 mission groups set goals to reach the world for Christ.
Never before had it seemed that God said the same thing to so many leaders, from so many continents, about such a specific decade of evangelism--and all this leading up to A.D. 2000.
Now, as we approach the year 2000, it is becoming clear that what began as a "decade of destiny" will culminate in a "celebration of centuries."
Rather than just a milestone for world missions, A.D. 2000 is now being seen as a memorial to Christ, in light of his 2,000th anniversary. Just as Columbus was the historical figure to deal with during the 1992 quincentennial, so Christ is now the pivotal person from 1999 to 2001. The real meaning and power of A.D. 2000 might well be to remind us of the significance of Jesus Christ in history and in our future.
Subject: 1.7 WHO FIRST CALLED FOR CHRIST TO RECEIVE TRIBUTE IN 2000?
The awareness that the year 2000 would be a special season for Christ has been growing for more than twenty years. This desire to present a gift to God by the year 2000 first emerged among the "born-again" evangelical movement in the United States.
In Christianity Today's 1975 opening issue, the editorial team decided to float a trial balloon on the year 2000. Playing off the interest in the upcoming American bicentennial, they ran a cover story entitled, "The Bimillennial: A Great Year Coming."
Managing editor David Kucharsky wrote: "Regardless of whether one embraces the theological Jesus, it is hard to dispute the fact that Jesus was the most important and influential person who has ever lived. On that basis alone the world should find him worthy of a momentous anniversary tribute."
Back then Christianity Today's trial balloon received less response than anticipated, Kucharsky now admits. Yet beneath the surface, the awareness of Christ's bimillennial was working its way across the entire world.
The next major call to celebrate Christ's 2,000th anniversary came in 1978, when the Roman Catholic Church elected a new pope. On October 16th, Pope John Paul II acknowledged his sovereign placement in the chair of St. Peter in Rome and declared that the year 2000 "will be the year of a great Jubilee."
He spoke of how the year 2000, in itself, would surely reawaken in people their special awareness of how God dwelt among humanity through Jesus Christ. He called for the remaining years of the second millennium to be a new advent season for the church and the world at large.
Now on the eve of the year 2000, practically all major church leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, have gone on record affirming the need to commemorate the 2,000th jubilee of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Subject: 1.8 HOW WILL THIS ANNIVERSARY DEVELOP FROM NOW TO 2001?
The bimillennial era of Christ has clearly begun, at least in its preparation stage. Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem have been preparing to mark the millennium since 1995. The churches in Europe have also been anticipating this jubilee.
In the U.S., most people thinking about A.D. 2000 have been preoccupied with bible prophecy. The reaction among conservative Christians to the Y2K computer crisis has practically, up until now, preempted any serious response to the year 2000. Whether we experience technological brownouts or not, Y2K should also mean "Year to Kneel."
Tributes to Christ should fill our cities' churches, theaters, libraries, museums and stadiums. Just as mountain climbers do not scale a peak in one stage, so too jubilee planners for Jesus 2000 must approach it in stages.
* Exploration 1999: Still being uncharted ground for most, we must ask genuinely investigate what it would mean for us as followers of Christ to mark the millennium in view of Jesus' 2,000th birthday. At base camp, denominations have gathered theologians, educators, publishers and producers to focus the discussions. In turn, local churches need to pray for a clearer vision of Christ and A.D. 2000. In keeping with this task of exploration at "base camp," the Millennium Advisory Group to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a 5,000 word ecumenical statement, calling for "imaginative ideas and schemes" to mark the turn of the millennium http://www.2000ad.org/chance.htm/.
* Preparation, 2000: After mapping the path to the peak of 2000, the church is now getting outfitted for the journey into this jubilee which will mark the advent of the third millennium. The high church traditions have been particularly keen on "Jubilee 2000" preparations, hosting national conferences and preparing for an outpouring of scholarship on Jesus. Many U.S. evangelical denominations have embraced the call to "Celebrate Jesus 2000" developed by the Southern Baptist. Either way, by the fall of 1999, plans to mark Jesus' jubilee throughout the year 2000 could be unfolding within most communities.
* Commemoration, 2001: After the preparation years, the church will climb the pinnacle until 2001. Having arrived at the peak, it will shout to the world, "All things are ready. Come to the mountaintop. The feast is ready to begin." Already the churches of the Holy Land are preparing to welcome some 4 million tourists to walk where Jesus once walked. In addition, Rome is preparing for more than 20 million pilgrims for a Holy Year, from Christmas 1999 to Christmas 2000. That will not be the end. For on January 1, 2001, we will celebrate the inauguration of the third millennium of the Christian era. Surely kings and prophets longed to see our day.
Subject: 1.9 IS THE YEAR 2000 EXCLUSIVELY A CHRISTIAN ANNIVERSARY?
No. The Gregorian calendar has been universalized since the 1700s as the Common Era calendar to govern international trade, travel and government affairs. Although technically the common calendar counts from the birth of Christ, the annotations C.E., or Common Era are not meant to refer to the "Christian era." This means the turn of the millennium can be celebrated as A.D. 2000 or C.E. 2000.
Those celebrating the human story will take their cue from the Enlightenment. The millennium will be the biggest New Year's Eve in 1,000 years. Those celebrating the divine story will look back 2,000 years to the first Christmas, where the angels sang, "Peace on earth, goodwill among men."
All of society should be aware that the roots of our calendar tap deeply into Christ, but Christians should not presume they will be the only ones commemorating 2000. If the church approaches the millennium with sensitivity to this dual nature of the Great Calendar, there will be many natural openings through which to present the gospel meaningfully.
As anglican Bishop Gavin Reed of Maidstone, chairman of the Church of England's jubilee planning commission recently said: "The British government is pouring millions upon millions of pounds into millennial celebrations and great building projects to mark the start of the new millennium. There is going to be a great national celebration, but unless the churches do something, nobody will know why we are celebrating....It is our great opportunity to say whose birthday it is and why we are celebrating."
Subject: 1.10 SHOULD THE CHURCH EXPECT COUNTER-COMMEMORATIONS?
Yes. As William Johnstone, author of Celebrations has pointed out, not only do today's cultural managers use major anniversaries to celebrate every nuance of opinion, but cultural critics particularly "aim to reshape offerings of the Great Calendar into counter images of official agendas."
In contrast to the character discussions about whether Columbus was obsessed by gold or God, whether he was a saint or a womanizer, explorer or exploiter--no serious person would dare question the character of Christ.
There will always be the sensational author or movie claiming that Christ visited India during his "missing years" or was secretly married to Mary Magdalene. This kind of "creativity" with the gospel narratives has never stuck.
Because the historical testimony is so strong against them, allegations like these are best ignored, less by our opposition they draw strength from the publicity. Counter-images of Jesus are merely proof of the continuing fascination Christ exercises on peoples minds.
The same holds true for the "historical Jesus." Some scholars will point out that the commemorations of Christ's 2,000th jubilee have more to do with the Christ of faith, than the Jesus of history. But many scholars in the "third quest" for the historic Jesus feel the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith overlap considerably more than earlier thought. As people of a historical faith who live in a pluralistic society, we should participate, and even convene public discussions which reveal the serious historical scholarship focused on Jesus of Nazareth.
Some counter-commemorants might embrace a "Year Zero" mentality to supplant the A.D. calendar. Rather than turn Christ's jubilee into a battle ground for culture wars, "a man's wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Prov. 19:11). After 2,000 years, the church should have the security and maturity for an adult relationship with the world. We live in a post-modern world.
Yes, 2000 will be a P.C. jubilee for some, "politically correct" and shallow. Rather than raise a closed fist, the church must find a way to extend an open hand to all those who see in Jesus the highest and best ideals. Only as we allow these millennial tests to refine our faith, will the light of the gospel reflect brightly, and light our way into the third millennium.
Subject: 1.11 WHAT SHOULD THE ADVENT OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM MEAN?
From the Synod of Whitby (A.D. 663) onwards Britain has been committed to measuring time in relation to the symbolic birth date of Jesus Christ. 'A.D.', or Anno Domini in Latin, means 'in the Year of Our Lord.'
The church lives under a regnal calendar. Rather than count time from creation, our calendar counts from the new creation day, the Incarnation of our Lord. It bears witness to the conviction that Christ is the ultimate sovereign.
The millennium, therefore, finds its highest meaning in its historic reference event, the birth of Jesus Christ. Rightfully understood, A.D. 2000 speaks of the first 2,000 years of the reign of our Lord.
So for a Christian, commemorating the advent of the third millennium on January 1, 2001 is a recognition of the Lordship of Christ (cf. Psalm 110). As we celebrate the year 2000, we anticipate the greater and fuller reign of Christ's kingdom for ages to come. His is an ever increasing kingdom, a government of which there will be no end!
We must not take the advent of the third millennium for granted. With unbridled brutality and bloodletting, Hitler's Third Reich conspired to steal the next millennium. Today, scholars realize that fascism was essentially a spiritual movement, in revolt against the Judeo-Christian-Islamic idea of God as sovereign. It sought to exalt the nation-state, disregard the individual and smash the monuments of Western civilization.
It is ironic that the 20th century produced such a madman with a focused vision for the third millennium, while we in society have hardly considered what it means. Perhaps our prayer should echo Hosea's, "Come let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us... After two days he will revive us, on the third day he will restore us that we may live in his presence" (Hosea 6:1-2).
Subject: 1.12 HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM NEW AGE CELEBRATIONS?
Until recently, the New Age movement has practically filled the prophetic vacuum in popular culture as we look to the year 2000. Various New Age writers have defined the year 2000 as a threshold, as a time to welcome a new millennium, and the arrival of the Age of Aquarius.
The tide may be changing now as the church wakes up to the biblical significance of the advent of the third millennium. Rather than call people to anticipate the new millennium, the billennium ought to invite society to give Jesus Christ the tribute worthy of a 2,000th anniversary.
There is a world of difference between the "false Christ" of the New Age, and the faithful servant, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended into heaven, and now reigns as sovereign Lord of the universe.
Rather than being a New Age celebration, Jesus' 2000th jubilee has the potential to attract those seekers who have never glimpsed the fullness of the New Covenant Age which Jesus inagurated.
At the dawn of the 21st century the church must regain a biblical theology of hope that is grounded in the full redemptive work of Christ for future generations.
Subject: 1.13 WHAT PLANS ARE ANNOUNCED FOR CHRIST'S 2,000TH JUBILEE?
Preparations for this historic jubilee are well underway. More than 15 million people are expected to participate in the "March of the Millennium" on June 10, 2000, as two-thousand cities worldwide host a "March for Jesus." Annual processions of prayer and worship have been held in more than 800 cities each Pentecost weekend in preparation for this event.
Besides welcoming 20 million pilgrims to Rome, Pope John Paul II is making plans to visit the Holy Land in March of 2000. He expects to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders on Mt. Sinai to talk about a more peaceful third millennium. In addition to the Vatican, other global commemorations of Christ are being organized from historic Christian centers such as Istanbul, Moscow, London or Seoul.
Instead of the Christmas season in 1999 lasting 12 days, it could very well continue for 12 months. In the year 2000, concert halls in cities worldwide will likely feature performances of Handel's Messiah or Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Special exhibits in art museums will celebrate the paintings of Christ, such as Raphael's "The Sistine Madonna." Theatres will be filled with productions such as "Jesus Christ, Superstar," or "Godspell.
In addition, libraries and publishers will celebrate both the original Christmas story and our shared Christmas traditions. December 25, 2000 will be the most meaningful Christmas in 2,000 years as the illumination from the original Incarnation fills our world.
Subject: 1.14 WHAT CAN I DO TO HONOR CHRIST IN LIGHT OF HIS ANNIVERSARY?
In preparation for Christ's 2,000th birthday, we should aim to light a candle, rather than curse the darkness. Here are 25 ways to light a candle for Christ (source: The Star of 2000):
1. Meditate on the names of Jesus.
2. Display a book about Jesus on your coffee table.
3. Build a file of quotes or poems about Jesus.
4. Memorize portions of Jesus' words.
5. Play praise tapes which exalt Christ.
6. Celebrate the liturgical seasons in your home.
7. Throw a birthday party for Jesus.
8. Hold a Jesus Block Party in your neighborhood.
9. Have a Jesus Film Festival in your home.
10. Attend a worship symposium.
11. Join a March for Jesus.
12. Participate in a Concert of Prayer.
13. Attend or present a play which dramatizes Jesus.
14. Reenact the Journey of the Magi.
15. Discover Jesus' place in history and culture.
16. Discover the cultural history of the bimillennium.
17. Write a paper on the bimillennial.
18. Use your computer to talk 2000.
19. Visit the Holy Land.
20. Be a "tribute 2000" advocate with the media.
21. Give a talk on the Year 2000.
22. Study The Star of 2000 as a small group.
23. Develop a "Vision 2001" as a church.
24. Adopt a people by 2000.
25. Help convene a "Jesus 2000" forum in your city.
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Revised: June 1, 1999