(Lexington, Former member of LABC)
First Week of Advent: Hope
Thursday, December 1, 2011
There’s a tendency today to consider the world in worse shape than has ever been the case, understandable for those who are not long enough in tooth to remember such dark days as those of the 1930s-40s, when millions were dying in Europe and the west rim of the Pacific at the hands of butchers commanded by Hitler, Hirohito, Mussolini, Stalin and, later, Mao. This country lost 405,000 GIs in 1941-45 stemming the tide of their evil, which spread throughout the world.
Or... consult history and be reminded that 4% of all males in the U.S. died in the throes of the Civil War, Americans killing Americans through battle and disease at the average rate of 435 per day. By contrast during the last ten years, less than two American GIs have died per day in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, though any deaths at all are intolerable. The point: Even though dangers shift – for example, fear through terrorism today rather than all-out attack – this world has always been in “bad shape,” with the only constants being the God of the Universe and those people who subscribe to God’s mandates in the conduct of their lives and societies in an effort to make it better.
Believers who try to make things better anchor their efforts in HOPE, one of the three foundations of belief, as Paul would have it in 1Corinthians 13:13. Christ was born into slavery in Bethlehem, a subject of the Roman government. He was a target for assassination during much if not most of his ministry, not at the hands of the Romans but at those of the keepers of the synagogue...his church. For him, the world could not have been in worse shape, but he soldiered on...unto death, but also resurrection, the proof that the believer’s HOPE is valid, since Christ conquered the enemy of HOPE – death.
Bethlehem has not changed. It remains in the throes of constant disruption and danger, as it was at Christ’s birth. The difference between then and now is HOPE, introduced into the world by Jesus.
O Little Town of Bethlehem – 2011 (paraphrased)
O little town of Bethlehem, How grim we see you lie,
Above your frightening mayhem, The rockets thread the sky;
Yet in your dark streets shines still, God’s light among the fears,
The HOPE that mankind cannot kill, The Christ of endless years.
How silently, how silently, The prayers to God on high
That peace will come, all people free, Hush mankind’s woeful cry;
Though none may feel God’s presence, Throughout this world of sin,
God’s love is of the essence, And drowns the battles’ din.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, Your presence here is sensed,
Forgive us of the world’s mayhem, That mankind has dispensed;
May angel voices sound out – The great glad tidings tell,
Remind of Grace the world throughout – Our Lord Emanuel.