From the capital riots on Wednesday, January 6 to the terrifying tornado outbreak in the Midwest on Saturday, December 11, 2021 has been quite a ride. And the year is not over yet! For the last year, our country has boarded a never-ending roller coaster ride of fear, agitation, anger, name-calling incivility, and outright violence: neighbor against neighbor, relative against relative, American against American, and, sadly, Christian against Christian. We enter 2022 looking at economic inflation, rising cultural violence, rising mental illness, and record numbers of deaths due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Not a happy place to be.
As followers of Jesus, you and I can take heart. We can make this world better by who we are and what we do in Jesus. You see, the Christian way is the way of unconditional love: love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy, love those who hate you and spitefully abuse you. That is who we are; it is what we do. That is how our world is changed. When you look into the face of Christ, the ultimate giver of gifts, He is going to ask you, “What are you going to do in my name, that our world will be a better place?”
A Positive Christmas for YTI!
Christmas 2021 sees YTI in its best financial position, and its bests academic position since 2017. We have started our joint venture project with Providence Development Co., who have provided the best development team for which we could have hoped. The partnership is already bearing fruit. Our designers from Locati, Madison Engineering, Design 5, and all of the subcontractors are doing their absolute best to stay within our budget and give us a great product. We continue to enjoy great relations with our community partners as well—Raison D’Être Dance Project, Bozeman Actors Theater, and Blitzz Football Club—and our community friends—MSU Spirit of the West, MSU Swing Cats, Excel Physical Therapy, Bozeman Symphony, and Intermountain Opera. We have established positive relationships with many of the churches in Bozeman, the Gallatin Valley, Great Falls, and Billings. We are becoming difference makers in the life of our expanding communities.
Potential student inquiries continue to rise, resulting in more applicants. In Fall 2022 we are expecting to double our enrollment through new EQUIP cohorts in Billings, Bozeman, and Great Falls. The EQUIP enrollment in Bellingham, Wash., will double in the fall to 15 students. That will mean 40 new students through EQUIP. Our MA programs continue to grow steadily. This growth isn’t as quick as the diploma growth, but the difficulty of the housing market in Bozeman is a challenge here. It is a positive Christmas for YTI.
The Christmas Miracle of Unconditional Love
And now for the Christmas takeaway: In the deepest, darkest part of winter, we celebrate the birth of God in the man, Jesus of Nazareth. He became like us, not simply to die for us, but also to show us how to be human. He came to show us what it means to live our lives in and with God, to show us how to live lives of divine love, and to bring that love to our world. He came to show us how to not live in fear. He came to show us who our real enemy is: not the politicians, not the Democrats, not the Republicans, not the fascists, not the socialists, but the principalities and powers of our world—the forces of darkness, the evil that plagues all nations, and all worlds. Friends, our communities, our state, and our nation will not change through politics or our political loyalties. Our world will change, as we embrace the way of Jesus … the way of unconditional love. The babe in the manger this Christmas would crucify our anger, hatred, and violence for the unconditional love He came to share.
I know just how hard the last few years have been. We do not thrive well on uncertainty. Truly, we “batten down the hatches” and hope to survive the rough seas. YTI has survived the rough seas, not because we are superhuman, but because we believe the love that is God will change the world.
A baby was born to an unwed Jewish couple over 2000 years ago. No hospital, no doula, no prenatal care, and no attending physician. They had sought refuge in a stable, and laid this new baby in a feeding trough. Just another immigrant baby, born to a construction sub-contractor and his super young fiancé.
Yet for some reason, the sheep herders and traveling foreigners stopped to see him in amazement. The crystal starlight of the heavens shone radiantly above him, and if you listened carefully, you could hear the music of the heavens in the wind.
The government hated these pests, these impoverished interlopers, and sought to drive them out—to murder them if they could. But the baby and his parents survived. Hope was born out of love. The baby became a man, and He showed us Love, because He was, and is, Love.
This Christmas, the most important thing you can give anyone is the miracle of unconditional love. That’s why the babe was born. So we can know love and change our world.
Dr. Jay Smith, President
Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics