Hopes and Fears
December 20, 2011"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight..." So says the hymn that sings the good news in Bethlehem long ago, hopes and fears that are met in the Christ born anew among us at Christmas just a few days away. Life is so filled with hopes and fears that travel together like feet on a winding path. One foot... a day of extraordinary hope and joy, the next, a foot that is despair and worry. Sometimes the crushing reality of life's paradoxes seem too much to handle. Why do things happen the way they do? Why do good people suffer and die too young? Why can't we find cures for the horrible diseases that infiltrate our peace and rob our joy, stealing lives of those we love? Yesterday, the renovated Sanctuary at Saint Mark's UMC in Raleigh was consecrated before a huge crowd eager to see and be part of the miracle happening before our eyes in that church. Last night, sitting back after a day of celebration, praise and thanksgiving, a few friends sat with wine and bread basking in the good memory of the day. A cheerful server added to the delight of the evening. I only knew it was time to leave when I saw another one of the servers put her jacket on and reach for her purse. Today brought other circumstances, a request for a healing service from a person caught up in human trafficking. This problem in our society is only now coming to the light of day. There are so many who live in constant fear and danger. Evil lurks even in the sleepy south. Fear of a bad diagnosis, illness, learning to live with lost vision, dealing with recent deaths, and fears of job losses among friends whom I love and care about bring new heaviness to my heart. Bright lights and tinseled trees cannot cover the pain that seeps into my prayers this night. The moon has gone away, and there is hardly a place to howl. Psalm 126 was the lectionary psalm for December 11 and the psalm in which our lectio divina group reflected that week. God led me to the phrase, "sow in tears" and this is what I wrote: "Too much sadness, too much illness, too much death, too much doubt, too much fear, too much worry, too much anger, too many tears. Come Christmas... laughter in the stars. Human tears water the earth... watering seeds. What are the seeds I carry? Sadness is amplified against the backdrop of tinsel and glitter. Life is paradox. I live in the tension between tears and laughter, pain and solace, fear and hope. Come Christmas... Receive the seed, Mother Earth, the tiny seed of hope sown under the sorrow. Water with the tears and blood of your people who long to be whole and free. Come Christmas... Bear your peace as the sheave of life. Thank you, God, for a reminder that when I sow my tears in you, joy returns and laughter grows." For as many times as I may ask, "Why?," God comes incarnate in the babe of Bethlehem gathering up the hopes and fears of a people and weaving them into this thing we call life. Come Christmas... indeed. Prepare our hearts to make room for your coming and bind our hearts together in hope that will keep fear at bay and bring healing and peace to your weary world. Amen.