It is in the letter and after the end of the week last week, at a time when people are winding down the year it is harder and harder to find. In Colorado, 2012 found a population tested by fire; and in a year when the American flag barely reached past the half way point on the poll, death is in the air. Yet the letter towards the end of Advent so many of us are trying to make heads or tails of surviving, let alone finding hope; peace; love, and joy in this world. “A nation that kills it’s own children,” the Pope says, “is a nation without hope.” We stare at the pages as if we received a letter from a friend. “Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer.”
Along the Front Range of Colorado a group of men and women reflect. “Who do we find hope in?” “What is the peace we are looking for?” “When will we experience real love?” “Where is joy?” In the letter to the Romans the writer tells the recipients that we find love only when we love and we find hope in the world when we give. “Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer,” (Romans 12:12). It is hard to find joy in the face of evil and in our thought process it is important to acknowledge that people make choices and that humanity is dealt with choosing between good and evil. We also can choose joy, we can choose to give, we can choose to hope in Jesus Christ and his Advent instead of believing what we read, listen to and see from the media. Joy is a choice. It is not an artificial ingredient that plasters a smile onto ones face, like a fool who smiles in the midst of suffering and tragedy. “With the joyful be joyful, and mourn with the mourners.” (Romans 12:15).
Bruce Cockburn sings “There’s love in the world but it’s hard to find,” Paul writes, “Love in all sincerity; loathing evil and clinging to the good. Let love for one another breed warmth of mutual affection. Make a place for one another to give each other esteem.” (Romans 12: 9-10). The song from the musical “Oliver” “Where is Love?” Good question. “Hard to find.” Yet when you see the love for people who lost their kids and loved ones in Newtown, there is no separation of faith, of hope, peace, and love on this day. There are signs that say “Pray for us,” in the town square. It reminds us of the words of Jesus when asked, as a set up question from the teachers of religious law,” Teacher what is the greatest commandment? “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” All the others hang on these two.
“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is justice and His Gospel is peace.” “O Holy Night” has an answer to the answer top the question, “Where can I find peace?” In Denver, in Detroit, Danbury and any city or town, “our law i love and our gospel is peace.” Where is peace in the gospel? In order to answer that question we need to read those accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel message is not about how good you are, or about how many people you saved; or even about how many times you attend church. There are many websites that can connect you to the “peace of the gospel.” A man named Ian Johnson has a website, http://www.christian-oneness.org that explains the gospel this way:
“The Gospel is that Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised again the third day according to the Scriptures. Believing the message leads to relationship with God, repentance and baptism, followed by growth. Attendance at church meetings and performance of church rituals are not an essential part of the message. The message of the Gospel is not “please visit our church so you can be saved there.” It is all and only a message about Christ.” The peace of the gospel is to know your final destination. President Obama gave a clear worldview message at the memorial service at Newtown High School on Sunday evening from 2 Corinthians Chapter 4 :
“Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day.
“For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.” The apostle Paul shows us that people can only find peace through the “eternal, not our present situation.” President Obama echoed that truth in his remarks.
In the next year it is important to be people continually getting ready for the next Advent. It is not a political football or slogan. The first weekend is in the message of hope. To trace back; to rewind and to “renew our minds and hearts” by studying God’s word and doing what it says.” Paul writes, “I implore you to offer your very selves to Him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.” (Romans 12 1-2). This is what produces an active hope, it is what gives people a restful peace; and this is where we find a continual and systematic love that connects us to the joy that comes in the morning.” In a way this Christmas is much more meaningful than any other in recent memory. “I know it will have even more meaning to sing “Away in a Manger,” this Christmas. “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay, close by me Lord Jesus and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.” That is what we hope for. To come face to face with our Savior, and to see the smiles of those children, that we met last week from Sandy Hook Elementary, totally “fit for heaven to live with thee there.”
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