An excerpt from “The Star of 2000: Our Journey Toward Hope“, by Jay Gary, PhD. Jays describes himself as a Foresite Coach, helping leaders rethink the future. Jay’s motto on Twitter is “How to lead from the future and recreate your career and company through strategic foresight, innovation and global leadership from a Regent U professor” His website is: jaygary.com
Written prior to the year 2000, Jay’s book anticipated the celebrations, changes and opportunities at the start of the new millenium, focusing on celebrating Jesus as “the star of 2000”.
Proclaim liberty throughout all the land
unto all the inhabitants thereof.
The Liberty Bell is one of our world’s most treasured relics of independence. Its inscription is from the Bible, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” It was rung in 1776 to announce that a new era had begun through the American Declaration of Independence.
On each successive anniversary, it was rung outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Finally, in 1835, it broke while tolling, leaving a famous crack up its middle. Even though it rings no more, the Liberty Bell stands as a universal symbol of freedom.
In ancient times, the law of Moses called for a year of liberty every 50 years. You can read about it in Leviticus 25. Instead of ringing a cast-iron bell, the Year of Jubilee was inaugurated by the blowing of a great ram’s horn trumpet (or jubal) throughout the land. Thus began a year-long festival, marked by canceling outstanding debts, returning land to original owners and freeing indentured servants.
During this Sabbath of sabbath years, fields were not sowed, nor vines pruned. This was meant to be a holy year marked by reconciliation among families and communities. The Year of Jubilee gave a new lease on life to everyone.
I believe the year 2000 will be experienced as a once-in-a-lifetime Year of Jubilee. Jubilee 2000 is the most powerful image we could use to talk about the bimillennial of Jesus.
The Jubilee Edict
While no longer a social proposal as it was in ancient times, the Year of Jubilee nevertheless still stirs the imagination.
In the case of Israel, it is uncertain whether the prescriptions of the Jubilee year were ever followed. What was meant to restore the inheritance of the fathers to each generation was neglected.
Almost a millennium passed before a generation in Israel had anything comparable to a jubilee experience. In 536 B.C., the ruler of the Persian empire, Cyrus the Great, was moved to release the people of Israel who had lived in exile for 70 years.
Two hundred years earlier, Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would be God’s chosen instrument to liberate the Jewish exiles. Tradition tells us that Cyrus was shown these prophesies in Isaiah 42, where God called him by name.
Later, using jubilee imagery, Isaiah captures this royal edict of release in chapter 61:1-4.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Rather than the end of a 49-year cycle, Isaiah saw jubilee coming to the people of God when they most needed it. It would release them from slavery, bring them back into the land and restore their fortunes.
This would happen when a new regime came to power. The jubilee generation of Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah did return and rebuild Jerusalem. Yet all of what a jubilee could bring would not be experienced until the anointed one came.
Jesus Is Our Jubilee
As a greater Cyrus, Jesus saw Himself as God’s royal messenger of release. His coming opened a jubilee era of liberty for all humanity.
As Jesus announced His ministry in Nazareth, He applied the jubilee passage of Isaiah to the inauguration of God’s reign (Luke 4:18-19), and later noted His healing ministry was evidence of its commencement (Matthew 11:2-6).
When Jesus ate with the elites of His day, He invited them to offer a jubilee experience to those the system had trodden down (Luke 14:12-14). His parables of banquet stories share how, in God’s great feast, hunger and sadness are replaced by plenty and rejoining (Luke 14:15-24).
In Jesus’ jubilee, those ordinarily denied access to human occasions of celebration enjoy the blessings of society. The castaways are brought aboard. The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son are found.
What once was just a fifty-year event, or the moment of release of a people held captive, has become a perpetual jubilee. Through the cross of Christ, what was once released in a “year of redemption” has become available in an epoch without end.
As Gino Henriques of Evangelization 2000 says, “Through Jesus, we are always in the jubilee now. Every year is ‘the year of the Lord’s favor,’ full of grace and forgiveness.”
The Gregorian calendar gives testimony to the notion of this “acceptable time” tradition. Before each year we use the notation, A.D., or Anno Domini. A.D. 1995 stands for Anno Domini the Year of Our Lord 1995.
Every year is the year of the Lord’s favor. It takes an extraordinary year like 2000 to convince us that every year, every week, every day is the Lord’s day and pregnant with meaning and possibilities.
You can almost hear the apostle Paul say, “It has been 1995 years since the jubilee of Jesus. But this year, this week, this day is still the acceptable time, the year of God’s favor. Don’t miss it.” (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Open the Door of Jubilee
Like the ancient jubilee of Moses, the jubilee of Jesus suggests that each generation must respond to God’s decree of liberty. This act of celebrating the grace of Christ and His redemptive work has not been lost on successive generations.
In A.D. 1300, Pope Boniface VIII, without any precedents, instituted a tradition within the Roman Catholic Church of celebrating every 100 years as a Holy Year of Jubilee. From all over Europe, pilgrims streamed to Rome to experience forgiveness and spiritual renewal.
“It was a wonderful spectacle,” wrote Giovanni Villani, Florentine merchant and chronicler, “There were continually upwards of 100,000 pilgrims in the city, without counting those that each day came and went.” Boniface’s Jubilee year was “a centennial celebration of a new age that would begin with the clean slate of a year of absolution.”
Fifty years later a delegation came to Pope Clement to ask for a reduction of the Jubilee interval from one hundred years to fifty. They were desirous that their generation might experience the blessings of a Holy Year.
They reported that on the night before their audience with the pope “there appeared to us a vision of a certain venerable personage bearing two keys in his hand, who addressed to us the following words, ‘Open the door, and from it send forth a fire by which the whole world may be warmed and enlightened.’ ” It is reported that the pope was so moved by their experience that he declared A.D. 1350 as a Holy Year.
A tradition developed that the Jubilee year began on Christmas Eve with the opening of a sealed golden door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It affirmed that as the pope struck the holy door with a golden hammer, living streams of grace and pardon from Christ, the rock, were released. The inheritance of the fathers were restored to the sons.
Our Rendezvous With Destiny
Each generation seems to have it’s own “rendezvous with destiny,” as President Franklin Roosevelt once said. In hindsight, it seems his generation was called on to pull down the idols of fascism and communism so the world would be safe for democracy. What will be the rendezvous with destiny for our generation?
No one can be sure, but we may well be called upon to preserve the soul of Western civilization at a time when modern man increasingly rejects and despises the inheritance it has brought him.
In speaking about these cultural elites who despise the past, commentator Chuck Colson writes:
And so, in the guise of pluralism and tolerance, they have set about to exile religion from our common life. They use the power of media and the law like steel wool to scrub public debates and public places bare of religious ideas and symbols. But what is left is sterile and featureless and cold.
These elites seek freedom without self restraint, liberty without standards.
The media celebrate sex without responsibility, and we are horrified by sexual plagues.
. . . A generation of cultural leaders want to live off the spiritual capital of its inheritance, while denigrating the ideals of its ancestors. It squanders a treasure it no longer values. It celebrates its liberation when it should be trembling for its future . . .
Disdaining the past and its values, we flee the judgment of the dead. We tear down memory’s monuments removing every guidepost and landmark and wander in unfamiliar country. But it is a sterile wasteland in which men and women are left with carefully furnished lives and utterly barren souls.
And so, paradoxically, at the very moment much of the rest of the world seems to be reaching out for western liberal ideas, the West itself, beguiled by myths of modernity, is undermining the foundation of those ideas.
The Jubilee year of 2000 could not have come at a more appropriate time. The civilization which began with the birth of Jesus will encounter its spiritual roots on the occasion of the bimillennial.
The season we are entering now is a kairos moment. It will be super-charged with meaning due to the past and future. If we respond to this epoch-making period it will surely be a God-graced season. We dare not let it pass by unnoticed. It may not come again.
Let the Jubilee Generation Arise
It is in this context I often share with groups that we are the jubilee generation.
The past 25 years have witnessed a proliferation of generational terms. A whole new lexicon of terms have emerged such as “generation gap,” “Baby-boomers,” and more recently “Generation X,” a more cynical younger twenty-something crowd which is tired of generational scams.
By generation, I mean something larger than a single age group. It includes that, but it is much more. I see a generation as a group of people who live through the same epoch-making events of world history.
If we take a generation to be 40 years, and its been 2,000 years since Christ, that would mean that we are the 50th generation. In the Bible the year 50 is the Jubilee.
As the 50th generation since the birth of Christ, we are uniquely called to value, appreciate and celebrate the treasures of Christ in light of Anno Domini 2000. As we partake of this season of commemoration of Christ, we should ask God for a new lease on life, filled with more meaning and joy.
Celebrate the Celebrity
People can often have misconceptions when we talk about celebration. In the spring of 1992, I attended a New Life 2000 retreat of leaders at Arrowhead Springs, in San Bernardino, Calif. The first night, I had a memorable conversation with a Bible Society leader.
After introducing myself as the director of Celebration 2000 a consulting group for bimillennial initiatives, he launched into a monologue. “That’s the problem with people today. They are so into celebrating themselves they are spoiled for anything else,” he barked. “What about evangelism?”
Like many people, the first thought this leader had when he heard of Jubilee 2000 was partying. Our generation has never needed a reason to party, we just party to have a good time!
This is true for our secular celebrations, but the original sense of “celebrate” or “celebration” carried sacred connotations. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “celebrate” in these ways:
1. To perform publicly and in due form a religious ceremony.
2. To consecrate by religious rites.
3. To observe with solemn rites; to honor with religious ceremonies, festivities, or other observances.
4. To make publicly known, proclaim, publish abroad.
5. To speak the praises of, extol, publish the fame of.
In other words, celebrants at a celebration never celebrate themselves, but rather the celebrity. The celebrity, the star of 2000, will be Jesus.
Our culture responds well to celebrities. Whether it’s sports stars like Michael Jordan, royalty like Lady Di or military heroes like Norman Swartzkopf, we shower them with admiration, adoration and affection. We seek to bask in their glory.
As worship teacher Judson Cornwall says, “We know quite well how to respond to a celebrity unless that celebrity happens to be God, and then we respond as though we were attending a funeral.”
Celebration in the original sense was never a memorial to the dead, but a celebration of the living God. The Jubilee was intended to be a year-long festival of the grace of God and the restoration of a lost inheritance to a new generation.
It was possible then, even as it is today, to get so caught up in the festivities as to forget the reason for celebration. If we are to be worthy of being called the “jubilee generation,” we must not let this happen. We must celebrate the celebrity, not the celebration.
Starting Over at Year Zero
We must not forget who we are, and from where we have come. I often say that the prelude to the bimillennial era began in 1989, with a jubilee experience for people that had been captive under totalitarian regimes.
One observer said the ousting of the communist party took roughly ten years in Poland, ten months in Hungary, ten weeks in East Germany, ten days in Czechoslovakia and ten hours in Romania.
Vaclav Havel, the playwright who became Czechoslovakia’s president, was asked how he felt about the theatrics begun in 1989. With unrehearsed elegance he replied, “It was a drama so thrilling and tragic and absurd that no earthling could have written it.”
Then in August 1991, the tables were quickly turned on a gang of Kremlin hardliners, as Boris Yeltsin stood defiantly atop a rebel tank and thousands of citizens rallied to his defense. Within hours the hand of God released a people held in captivity for 70 years. Surely this was one of history’s defining moments.
Spontaneous celebrations erupted everywhere. A Year of Jubilee had come. Time magazine ran a story entitled, “Standing at Year Zero.” The Eastern Bloc’s calendar was now pointed away from the old totalitarian regimes, whether czarist or communist. The odometer of history was reset. The challenge before them was to build a new order based on liberty, equality and justice.
The Jubilee Principle
The ’60s were a time of political freedom for many colonial nations. Yet political freedom still left many Third World countries in economic bondage.
For years Martin Dent, economics professor at Keele University in England, wrestled with the problem of how Third World nations might compete on a level playing field in our global economy. Due to wild price swings for cash crops in the world commodity markets, many poorer nations were left crippled with the burden of unpayable debt.
He asked himself, how could this be corrected, since the general principle on which commercial life depends, is that debts must be repaid. He finally saw this could only be done by the jubilee principle of associating the debt remission with a special acceptable year which would not reoccur for a considerable time.
In 1989, Dent launched a “Jubilee 2000” campaign to call upon governments and banks to negotiate the cancellation of the backlogged debts of the world’s poorest nations by 2000. In his discussions with governments around the world, he explains the roots of the jubilee principle from the Bible.
So They Might Worship Me
The Jubilee year of 2000 should be something far more than just an economic leveling program. At its essence, jubilee is a call to come into the presence of God and celebrate His greatness. When God instructed Moses to tell the Pharaoh of Egypt, “Let my people go!” it was “so they may worship me” (Exodus 4:22).
In his insightful book, The Kingdom of God Is a Party, Tony Campolo talks about how he had gotten it all wrong when it came to setting aside 10 percent of our earnings for God. Before reading Deuteronomy 14:22-29, he thought the tithe collected in Israel was for the work of God (i.e. the ministries of the church). But as he re-read this passage, Campolo discovered the tithe was not for that at all. It was for celebration!
Campolo writes, “Once a year . . . all the people of God were to bring one-tenth of all their earnings to the temple in Jerusalem … And it was not used for mission work. It was not used for charity. It was not even to be used to build an education annex onto the temple. It was to be used on a gigantic party.”
The annual calendar of Israel was built around three major festivals: Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. These celebrations in Jerusalem were anything but boring. There was dancing, singing and exuberant celebration before the living God.
The Year of Jubilee encompassed these three festivals, only raised to a higher power. The clear call of God across the millennia is that we are invited to come into His presence and feast on Him.
On the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus “stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink'” (John 7:37). Then as well as today, Jesus calls us to experience His jubilee.
Jubilee remains the most exact biblical and contemporary metaphor for what the year 2000 ought to mean to the world. We still use the word “jubilee” to designate the celebration of special anniversaries, such as a silver jubilee, a 25th wedding anniversary, or a golden jubilee, the 50th.
Like the biblical Jubilee year, the coming bimillennial should be a time of reconciliation and celebration before God. This ordinary year, A.D. 2000, needs to be celebrated in an extraordinary way, particularly in light of Jesus’ 2,000th birthday.
It’s time again to ring the freedom bell. It’s time to blow the ancient trumpet. It’s time to be reconciled to our spiritual roots. Heaven is calling us to come and worship. We are the jubilee generation and a Year of Jubilee is at hand.
This excerpt from The Star of 2000 is posted with permission. Copyright 1994 by Bimillennial Press.