Advent and the approaching Christmas season is filled with more darkness than we ever imagined possible, and we struggle to see any light.

Dear Members and Friends,

Faith is the enduring ability to imagine life in a certain way.

-James Whitehead, 20th century

For many of us, Advent and the approaching Christmas season is filled with more darkness than we ever imagined possible, and we struggle to see any light.  It is not a time filled with hope, but rather with fear and despair.  Instead of a season of charity and generosity it is marked by increased greed, self-centered actions, and no sense of compassion for vast swaths of people.

And yet, the message of Christmas has not changed and rings loudly still:

The people who walked in darkness 
have seen a great light; 
those who lived in a land of deep darkness – 
on them light has shined. … 

For a child has been born for us, 
a son given to us; 
authority rests upon his shoulders; 
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

This year, more than ever, we need to rush to the manger and cry with happiness at that baby.  As we all cope with a culture of anxiety and fear, as we live through a constant news-cycle of shock and scandal, as we feel more and more estranged from each other we need to remember the joy and hope we have in Jesus.

The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, in her Christmas message to the Church, did just that:

We are the beneficiaries of Hope Incarnate.
We who wait in this Advent Season with great anticipation.  
We who are breathed and born in Hope of the coming of the Christ child.
We must expect Joy!  We must expect Love.  We must expect Peace.  
We must expect the in-breaking of Christ among us.
We must expect Light to show up in the midst of darkness.
We must expect Peace to show up in the turbulence of our storms.
We must expect Hope to show up in the most desolate of places.
We must expect Generosity to show up where scarcity abounds.
We must expect Life to spring forth from where death has been pronounced.  
The in-breaking of the Christ is to be expected.  
Because we know that Christ has come!

… May we expect Joy and Love and Peace and the in-breaking of Christ through our hearts and feet and hands as we care for one another.  
May the Light of the Christ within us shine through. Reminding us … 
we are the Christmas we are waiting for and when we serve, 
Joy is to be expected.

Her words bring me great hope.  They remind me that even though we are waiting for the birth of that little baby in Bethlehem, we also already know the end of the story.  We know that the birth isn’t the only thing, and that there is truly reason to have hope and joy and excitement.  So, hold onto the sure knowledge of what Christmas did and does and will mean.  Trust Christmas and its message of hope.  Live Christmas with all your heart, soul, and mind.

See you in church.

Merry Christmas,

R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida