Hope, Peace, Joy and Love... these are the four themes that we are reminded of each year during Advent season. In fact, these four themes are illuminated by a lit candle during each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. While the Advent season inspires Christians to share these God-given gifts in anticipating the coming or birth of Jesus and his second coming, these beautiful qualities carry special meaning as we approach the third decade of the 21st century. Quite honestly, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love comprise my "Grown-Up Christmas List."
As we continue to make an impact as a Christian church community, where can we find Hope? Where is Hope truly needed? As the millennium commenced, my Hope is that the number of homeless would decrease over the last 20 years. While watching a 60 Minutes episode a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that in parts of Seattle, some people with full time jobs cannot afford livable housing. Closer to home, the PADS ministry at First Presbyterian Church provides people who have fallen on hard times a place to sleep and meals, but more importantly, they give them Hope. Hope is given through basic resources of food and shelter and through compassion for a fellow human being... the type of Hope Jesus Christ gave to the poor, the outcasts, the oppressed and the sick. My Hope is that the homeless are afforded job opportunities that provides them with the financial resources to acquire livable housing.
Many of us have had the blessing of being born and raised in the United States, mostly under peaceful circumstances. However, in a melting pot of diversity, many of our sisters and brothers from other countries have not lived under the umbrella of Peace and, in order to survive, have been forced to immigrate to other countries. Every time I hear the Christmas song, "Do You Hear What I Hear," the lyrics, "pray for peace people everywhere" inspire me to pray for a peaceful solution for the millions of people in places like Syria, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Venezuela and even within the United States to live in a peaceful environment that I sometimes take for granted. As we celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25, the words from Luke 2:14 ring loud and clear, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace..." Let us pray for peace each and every day as a fulfillment of God's plan.
Many of you likely have people in your life who exhibit Joy regardless of what is happening in their life. I am blessed to work with several people who share the wonderful attribute of Joy. I find that Joy is contagious whether through a smile, laugh, a positive comment or just by helping someone during a time of need. In fact, after encountering their happy demeanor, I feel guilty if I don't share the same Joy. The human element allows us to feel Joy just as it allows us to express sadness. Both are natural emotions, but my prayer is that, even in the face of sadness, the Joy that we glean from others transforms into positive energy. My prayer is that the kind of Joy that the birth of Christ brought to the earth over 2,000 years ago overcomes anything you don't think you can handle in your own life.
Finally, my "Grown-Up Christmas List" wishes for Love to prevail under all circumstances. As a Christian church community, we are encouraged to always express love and kindness to others, just as Christ has eternally given his Love for each of us. In the spirit of the Advent season, Love is the ingredient that bonds the other three qualities together. There is no Hope without Love, no Peace without Love, and no Joy without Love.
The birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and his return are accompanied by a divine and unconditional Love that reflects the grace of God. May you and yours find the gifts of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this Christmas Season!
God Bless and Merry Christmas!