After another year of difficulty at home and abroad those of us who are Christians will gather to remember once more the birth of a child filled with hope and promise. In churches across America we will join fellow believers all over the world and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who preached goodwill toward all.
At this special time, we note the Christmas Message recently offered by the World Council of Churches, which read in part:
"In the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we are particularly aware of God's gift of light revealed in the eternal Word who became flesh, and who dwells among us even now. This is the light that gives us hope for this present world in spite of disunity, abuse, hatred, violence, poverty, greed and corruption."
Hope is important is times such as these. We live in a nation where children live homeless and suffer hunger. Climate change threatens God's very creation. We look across the globe with concern at battles that rage in places like Syria and Afghanistan. And we fall to our knees after the shootings at Oregon's Clackamas Town Center and Sandy Hook.
In the midst of these times we find hope in the volunteers from diverse faith communities who work with homeless children at places such as the Common Cup Family Shelter at Sunnyside Church, we marvel at those who spend their lives fighting for environmental protections, we give thanks for those who are teachers and first responders, and we remember that blessed are the peacemakers who seek this Christmas season to end war.
"Christ's light is the lamp for our feet that shows us the way toward justice and peace. Even when our own wicks burn dimly, the Word of God withstands the darkness, faithfully bringing forth justice on our common way toward peace," the World Council of Churches reminds us.
The birth of Jesus stands as a symbol of hope for all time. In his ministry he envisioned a new world - the Kingdom of God - where the last would come first and justice would roll down like mighty waters, echoing the words of the Hebrew Prophets. Our task this Christmas is to offer prayers and sing praises to God for all the gifts we have been given but also to act on the teachings of Jesus to bring hope to people and places left in darkness. We recommit ourselves to the Christian faith at Christmas time and then are called to live out that faith into the world.