The Hope of Hope

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January 5, 2013

It was hard to know this Christmas how to hear the familiar story. Every year I look forward to advent, to hearing about Mary and Joseph and the new baby, to reflect again on what this story means for me and my community -- and how I live my life differently because of it.

This year, it was a difficult time. Like many others encountered in 2012 -- parents in Connecticut, families in Syria, communities in the Philippines -- this year my Christmas vision was hazed with grief. Somehow, Christmas has a different message in the context of despair and lament. 
 
Instead of hearing the angels' song, I heard the voice of Herod's enforcers, searching for children and killing them. Instead of the excitement of the shepherds, I felt the fear of Mary and Joseph as they ran from the coming violence. Instead of peaceful animals around the manger, I saw the coming death and execution of the new baby king.
 
Despite our Christmas glitter and peppy songs, the story of Jesus is really a grim story. Suffering, refugees, fear, political criminals, torture. In the season of grief, it's hard not to have these overshadow any "Joy to the World."
 
Yet I cling to the hope of hope. There is something in this story that's been told year after year and continues to transform lives and communities. Something that truly is good news. Our Lord God, the Creator of all that is, has been here with us. In grief. In suffering. In the dirt and grime of the worst of human experience. As the Psalmist affirms in Psalm 139, we can go to even to the depths of hell and God is there.
 
Even in the times of deepest darkness, when the black hole of grief and sadness begins to suck us in, we need not be afraid. God is there. In the worst of imaginable places, Jesus' story brings the hope of hope to come.
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