For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.—Isaiah 9:6
Looking back at 2017, there have been a lot of hard things that have happened. Too often this year, I’d wake up to news alerts on my phone, telling me stories of unspeakable tragedies. Mass shooting after mass shooting. Leaders abusing their power and taking advantage of those who were vulnerable. We’ve even witnessed Neo-Nazi’s taking to the streets with torches to spread their message of racism and hate. That Biblical refrain, “how long, O Lord,” went through my mind again and again.
In one of the entries for the United Church of Christ 2017 Advent Devotional Watch, thinking on this constant news-cycle of bad news, Kaji Douŝa wonders, “if that’s all we see, if it’s all we’re watching, it could easily seem that there’s no good in the world. Despair creeps up—and in. Into our souls, shrouding us in apathy.” It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the tragedy of the world. I know I’ve felt despair creeping up on me a number of times this year, but that apathy, that temptation to not hurt anymore by not caring anymore, that, I knew, I couldn’t let creep in. Our faith tells us that we are called to love and to have compassion for our neighbors. Kaji Douŝa goes on, “by some miracle of grace, we do care, don’t we? We care, so we know good exists. We care, so we know evil is not alone in the world. It doesn’t have free rein, it hasn’t won, and never will.”
This Advent season, I want to expand my watch. I want to keep my eyes and my heart open for the good in the world, for the things that give me hope. As we look for the coming of the Prince of Peace, I’ll be asking you about where you’ve seen signs of hope lately. I know that hope is out there all around us, but, like a photographer composing a photo, sometimes we need to train ourselves to see the world in fresh and new ways, to look for those things we might not have noticed before. We each have our own experiences and our own perspectives to offer, so I can’t wait to hear about your hope-sightings.
We have received a gift this Advent season of 50 copies of the UCC Advent Devotional Watch, so that each family can have a copy to follow along this season. It starts out with an entry by Rev. Vince Amlin and asks us to keep watch all the way to the manger. The books will be available in the sanctuary for you to pick up. The Monday Morning Bible Study will be working through this devotional, too, so if you’d like to talk with someone about it, we have a great group for you to join.
Christ brought an everlasting hope into this world. In the most vulnerable way, as a tiny baby born to parents who were poor and powerless, God surprised us with a abundant hope that would carry us through the ages. Keep watch, friends, and look for signs of hope this Advent season. —Pastor Sarah