Dear friends on the journey,
Each of today’s readings offer words of comfort. Isaiah’s message is “courage, do not be afraid.” In the second reading, James encourages us to “be patient, do not lose heart.” In the gospel, Jesus’ message to John the Baptist is “happy the person who does not lose faith in me.”
Sitting in a dark prison awaiting death, John must have felt hopeless, his faith tested. Surely Jesus’ words brought him comfort and strength. Well they’re meant for us today too and we need to soak them in.
Throughout our life, we find ourselves in dark places when we experience personal crises like serious illness, death, addiction, or family discord. Perhaps the crises are not ours personally but are happening around us. I have been deeply saddened lately by news of the sudden death of a 35-year-old woman, a toddler hospitalized with pneumonia, RSV and influenza affecting babies and the elderly and everyone in between, and a longtime friend just diagnosed with a brain tumor. In these moments, we have Isaiah’s words: have courage, do not be afraid. There is hope.
The news is filled with stories of continued senseless violence, anti-Semitism, racism, political division, war in Ukraine, natural disasters and we feel powerless and wonder if this world will ever experience true peace. Many of us worry about our children, especially in their adulthood, and their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. In these situations, we can look to James’ comforting words: be patient, do not lose heart. There is hope.
We can be the most faith confident people, working hard, doing our best only to be sideswiped by unemployment, car trouble, and unexpected expenses. Throw in the added stress and work of the holidays, as joyous as they are. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope we can wonder why God let us down and doubt his love for us and even his existence. In these times we can look to the gospel message: happy the person who does not lose faith in me. There is hope.
This hope is Jesus. In the Old Testament, God promised a savior. God delivered that savior in the person of Jesus. Jesus conquered death through resurrection, allowing us eternal life in the heavenly kingdom. This is hope. In these dark places of fear, overwhelm, and doubt, we have only to look back in salvation history to see that courage, patience, and faith have always conquered darkness. This is
hope that struggle does not last forever, that good will always come again.
This Christmas we celebrate the Jesus of history, the Jesus who is present in us and to us today, and the Jesus who will come again. This gives me great hope. How about you?