Posted by: cctracker | December 27, 2012

Christmas Hope

I’ve been keeping this blog for one year now. I’m grateful for those of you who have taken the time to read it and especially appreciate the thoughts and comments you’ve shared. Since I kept this project to myself for most of the year, not many of you may have seen some of the earliest posts. I thought I’d  repeat this one I shared a year ago at Christmas. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

A few years ago our high-school newspaper asked members of the faculty to share a few brief thoughts on what gave them hope at Christmas.

Last week, a friend was kind enough to  share that one of the alum editors had kept my comments and shared them with his family before dinner this year. He was good enough to send me the words I’d composed in an e-mail and hadn’t otherwise saved. They still feel true and they still hold me to account:

“If I only have a few sentences to say where I find hope, I’d say I find it most in the generosity of human beings I encounter. Not just in the “generosity” of seeing someone intentionally share something with someone else, but in the underlying generosity that allows them to give themselves to the world in the first place, to let others see their true colors, hear their real voice.

I’ll sometimes find myself thinking of a particular person—my niece, my wife, an athlete I’ve coached, a singer/songwriter I like—and I feel a joy well up in me, a thrill. “This person is alive!” I feel myself almost shouting aloud. They are giving themselves and I’ve been lucky enough to be there to experience it. And so, I am filled with hope, an inexpressible sense that continuing to take the risk of giving myself, in spite of all that can and does go wrong, is absolutely the right thing to do.

To me, affirming the importance of that generosity—that “pouring out” of one’s self—is very closely associated with what it means to have faith in God, to believe the “good news” that Jesus taught.

The word “hope” itself indirectly acknowledges a problem. The experiences we desire most deeply in life—love, joy, meaning and fulfillment—don’t come automatically for us or those around us. Fundamental things about life get in the way: the experiences of loss, loneliness, violence, and vulnerability to forces we can’t control, the inevitability of death. Eventually, as mature adults, we come to see that these things will never go away.

Under these very difficult physical, psychological and spiritual circumstances we have to figure out whether or how we can keep pursuing those deep desires. The term “God”—and many other terms in other languages and traditions—has served as a placeholder for the deeply felt experience that we keep going not only by our own efforts or by solving the problem of existence with our own minds, but by somehow being OPEN to a gift that is larger than ourselves. “God” is the name we’ve given to the source for that gift, that hope.

I’d say we are in a period of human history in which the term “God” feels small and irrelevant to more and more people who have mistaken it either for something we human beings made up to solve our problems or for something completely beyond us that might as well be appealed to through magic. Instead, Christianity makes the claim that life (faith, hope, love: the terms all point to the same inexpressible reality) is a GIFT. It is simply GIVEN. And it is best accepted by learning to become a gift one’s self, by pouring one’s self out for all the world to see as God has done in Jesus, as he has done for me in the people I mentioned above and as he wants to do in each of us. That, I think, is what Christmas is all about.”

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