By Merv Birky, Regional Conference Minister
(The seed thought for this article is not original with me. It came from a part of a poem I heard on the radio during the Christmas season. My apologies to the author, I didn’t hear the first part of the poem nor the author’s name.)
We have just experienced the Christmas season, a season which many say is a season of hope. I am one of them. And the hope I have is not just a sentimental wishing. It is a hope that is real, actual, vibrant, lived.
We read the story of a baby born in a stable. Angels announce him. Magi from afar dream of him and go to find him. His mother sings a song about justice coming into the world through him. The prophets called him “God with Us” (Emmanuel). His parents named him “Jesus” (Yeshua), meaning “God’s Salvation”.
Yes, it is a story of hope. A very real hope. Not an instant solution. Not an instant transformation of the world. But there is real, true hope and possibility that changes our lives and changes the world.
What is real is not just what is tangible and what is physical. It is also what we imagine and what we long for, what we expect. And it generates change in the world, change toward what is good.
In welcoming that hope, and hoping in that One, we pledge our lives to a new king, a king to whom we give reign over our minds, our imaginations, our hearts, our hands, and our feet in a new way in this world. A king who rules, not as a tyrant, but in love, kindness, respect, peace. And in that, there is real, genuine hope. It brings about transformation, beginning deep within – not instantaneously, but surely.
However, as in the Christmas story, there is also a jealous king. A king who tries to kill the innocents, to kill the baby who is promised to be a king in a new way. A jealous king looking to kill vision and hope and possibility. A king who wants us to run away in fear and doubt. Who wants us to think that our dreams and longings for peace and justice are neither valid nor realistic. This jealous king wants us to stop seeking to reshape our lives and our world in response to the King of Hope, the King of Christmas.
But the Christmas story tells us we can go home by another route. It is a route by which the baby can’t be killed through a simple refutation of fact, a route by which possibility and love and connection and hope and dreams and vision are stronger than the jealous, selfish king trying to kill all hopes.
We don’t have to remain in the realm of that king. We can take a different route to a different place, to another realm, a deeper reality, a place where even the darkest dark cannot destroy the flickering light of the “Light of the World.” Where grace and forgiveness, respect and mutual care, compassion, creativity and community flourish. A place where, even by way of the cross and suffering, the tomb still stands empty and flooded with Light.
There is nothing more real and abiding than that. It is the Hope brought by Christmas.
As we have celebrated this season of hope, so let us throughout our Conference live out the reality of that hope in our churches, our communities, our lives.