Bombs exploding. Pakistan and India, nuclear powers, squaring off. Israel firing missiles into wherever. The Hamas retaliating. People fighting for life. People killing life. Children running hand in hand with their parents. Mumbai attacks. The Santa blowtorch/machine gun man. Afghanistan. Iraq. Severity. Tensions. Destruction.
Ryan Ramiscal jumping for joy at the sight of Guitar Hero: Rock Band. Emily halting the car to give her letter and present to a homeless man. The Secret Santas in Detroit giving away $11,000. Advent Conspiracy. Marley & Me. The Baby Christ. Christmas. Snow in Vegas. Relationships renewed. Brunch with our new “family” on Christmas. Watching two little girls sing and be graded on PITCH on the Wii. Incredibly generous people granting us more gifts than we could ever dream of.
When I was 8 years old, my five cousins and two siblings were kicking glass bottles like field goals into Lake Michigan in Chicago (Don’t ask me why?!). As I, being the youngest, was about to kick another bottle into the Lake, a few guys, posing as policemen, started yelling at us, threatened jail, and began running at us. As an 8 year old, I had no idea what was going on, so I just took off, deathly afraid, sprinting down the pathway that ran adjacent to the Lake while bawling and screaming for life.
Despair. Terror. Without a real source. I just ran.
Then on CNN this morning, I see these kids just running, actually running for LIFE. Terrified, desperate, and afraid for life, they run. To this day, I can still feel the terror I felt on that day running along Lake Michigan. Imagine these kids in Israel, in Pakistan, in Mumbai – just running for life. Fear poring through every fiber of their being, and for many, lacking the ability to identify the source.
It’s a battle, isn’t it? Do you feel it? Hope. Despair. The world is grand and free. The world is going to blow itself up. People live. People die. People save each other. People kill each other. What a tension to live in?
We need to HOPE with no end. If we believe Scripture; if we believe in a good God; if we believe in a God who seeks life not death; if we believe in a God who sent Jesus to bring life not death, hope not despair; if we believe in a God who will eventually win out over all evil – we can HOPE to no end. Despair does not need to have the final word.
This Christmas season, God kept hammering home a message to me through messages at CLC, through my time at HOPE Lutheran, through my studies of the Prophets of the Bible: that we need to claim HOPE and claim LIFE. True, we can be moved to tears by the things going on in the world (or by watching Marley & Me), but we need voices who will shout louder than the sensationalist media that instills fear (For example, CNN’s weather report is called: SEVERE weather. The holiday shopping was a TOTAL DISASTER). We need prophetic voices in the world who will shout HOPE, claim LIFE, and let people know that God has already WON! And these voices need to be people who already know HOPE and LIFE. They need to step up and give it to people.
A life founded in this truth — the truth that Jesus Christ was God’s answer to evil, that we can partner with God to bring life to desperate situations, and that God will eventually stamp out all evil — only leads to real, unshakable HOPE.
What are you doing to bring life to dead situations? What are you doing for those people who need HOPE? Inspire HOPE in the lives of others, if you can claim HOPE yourself. If you aren’t feeling very HOPEful these days, why? Where is your foundation?
Finally, Emily read from Isaiah 1 a few days back. The prophet Isaiah talked about a life that didn’t found itself in the realities of God. This life would easily give into despair, give into losing hope, or give HOPE to our human-made programs and our human-made plans. HOWEVER, Isaiah painted this beautiful picture that a life in God is really like a HUGE OAK TREE that doesn’t shake from it’s foundation at the sight of bombs, the threats of war, and the news of death. A HUGE OAK TREE isn’t planted in our human-made programs or our human-made plans. Instead, it’s so deeply rooted in HOPE and VICTORY in GOD that it remains unmovable and unshakable.
A massive OAK tree. HOPE. Victory. A baby, Jesus, changed everything. God, HOPE, wins.