Hope to Get Me Through the Headlines

Sometimes, it feels like the world is ending. Over the past few weeks as the bad news piled up every day, it certainly felt as if the world was devolving into chaos—massacres in Paris, bombings in Beirut and Baghdad, shootings at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and a health center in San Bernadino, refugees continuing to flee war and poverty, messages of hate and fear flooding the airwaves, worries about HIV/AIDS, Volkswagen choosing immediate rewards over the future of the planet as the Marshall Islands slowly disappear into the sea.

It is so hard to find light in the midst of so much darkness. It is so hard to find hope in the midst of so much hate. And yet this is what Advent is—it is a season of light amidst darkness, of growing hope amidst fear and doubt. It is a season of anticipation. But even though it emphasizes the light and the hope, the doubt and the darkness are still very much present. Many of the scripture passages for this season are actually rather ominous. The Gospel for the first week of Advent from Luke 21 starts out by saying “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among the nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” And the Gospel for the third week of Advent talks of winnowing forks and burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. These images of judgment are not the type of anticipation I associate with Advent but they feel all too real right now as the ‘distress among the nations’ seems to grow everyday.

It’s easy to forget that the reason why the Advent messages of hope and light are so powerful is because they emerge from a mass of fear and darkness. The Christmas story is not always a pretty one—people refuse to open their doors to a pregnant woman, Herod massacres hundreds of infants in a crazed effort to protect his throne, Mary and Joseph become refugees and flee to Egypt. And yet Jesus—the child of a teen mother, the child of refugees, a child born in the darkness of a crowded stable—is the one who has come to save the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. At this point, Charlie Brown is extremely discouraged and can’t find a version of Christmas that feels true to him. He cries out with frustration, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Then Linus says in his simple voice, “Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” He steps out into the middle of the stage and lays out the story: there were shepherds in the field and an angel came to them. They were terrified but the angel says, “Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Linus finishes with the chorus of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward all.” He says all this without fanfare and leaves the stage, saying simply, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Every time I see this scene, no matter where I am or when I watch it, my breath catches in my throat whenever Linus begins his speech. Part of it is the familiarity of the words but it’s also because prior to this scene, everything feels like it’s falling apart but then Linus steps out on the stage and a fragile silence blooms up around his small voice as he patches us back together with the message of hope at the heart of it all.

Right now, I think this scene impacts me so much because when Linus cuts through the frustrations and chaos of the scene, it also feels like he’s breaking through the crushing load of bad news that’s been smothering me. The shootings and hate, the waves of refugees and fear, the pollution and the lies—they all still pull me down but now I have something to hang onto, I have a ray of light to focus on in the darkness, I have a hope that gets me through the headlines. That’s what I cling to in this season of expectant waiting. I wait for the hope to grow, for wars to cease, for people—all people—to have a place to call their own, a place where they feel safe. I wait with expectant hope for justice, for closure, for dialogue that builds up instead of tears down. I wait for solutions, for hands that are outstretched in welcome instead of clenched in anger, for smiles instead of tears. I wait for peace on earth and goodwill toward all. I wait for what Christmas is all about.


Susan Lloyd posted on December 3, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for sharing so simply and yet, so eloquently.

Bob Ferguson posted on December 10, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Thank you for being like Linus and stepping out into the middle of the stage and reminding me that there is hope among all this chaos. Your words touched me deeply. God Bless You.

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