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Hope for the World – December 2

Advent is a time of anticipation: anticipation of Christmas, and anticipation of the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose.  This anticipation is linked to hope for the first Sunday in Advent, peace for the second Sunday in Advent, joy for the third Sunday in Advent, and love for the fourth Sunday in Advent.

This Sunday, December 2nd, we light a candle for Hope. This year it is for the healing of relationships between humanity and God made visible in the healing of relationships between us.  It includes the healing of our personal relationships with God which requires our acceptance of God’s love for us, and the acceptance of God’s invitation to be in relationship.

One challenge for the acceptance of the invitation is overcoming personal perceptions of God or attitudes about God.  Some people believe God to be a particular stereotype that is abhorrent to them, and so they choose to be atheists.  They perceive God as a stern, perfection-demanding judge, and cannot believe that God would love them as they are, or that God would want to be in relationship with them.  Some perceive God as a remote clock-maker God, and do not believe God would even bother to notice them.  And there are probably other perceptions about God, or about themselves, that interfere with acceptance of God’s invitation.  While I feel sad about these challenges, I leave this issue with God.

Another challenge is the recognition that entering into a close relationship with God introduces the probability of change, and change is resisted or avoided by many people.  Change happens, and we either attempt to influence changes in our lives, or let them happen to us. Change can happen, not just in our individual lives, but in our relationships with other people, and this too can be a challenge in accepting God’s invitation.

There are other challenges to overcome on the paths to our other healed relationships.  Our Christian hope is that Jesus in his life, teachings, and death created the means to overcoming those challenges, and that he continues in some way to be a doorway to healed relationships.  As we consider the claim of God’s love for us, I hope Advent will advance healing in all of our relationships, that each of us will love ourselves as much as God loves us, and that we will have as much hope for ourselves and this world as God does.

Here are the story and message for December 2.

Seeing Hope

Here is a story about a pretend boy in a real village in Cameroon.  Amih went to school where all the books and lessons were in English.  Outside of school, he only spoke Aghem.  Until a few years ago, their language, shared by 62,000 people, had no writing.  School was hard as he did not know English well.  Most families earned less than $1/day, and they had to save most of that for the annual religious festival.  A very old person was 60 years old.  But Amih and his family had hope for their future because of what CABTAL had been and was doing.  CABTAL, the Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy, hired translators from the Aghem to create an alphabet and a dictionary for making translations.  Then they wrote Primers and a writing book for teaching adults and children to read and write in their own language.  They prepared an HIV-AIDS brochure and Kande’s Story Book to teach people about AIDS and the importance of continuing to care for and help people with AIDS and how to help prevent the spread of AIDS.   They prepared brochures on water purification and composting, and translations of the Gospel of Luke, the Lord’s Prayer, and a booklet on worship and priests in the Old Testament.  They are providing support to train teachers to teach in Aghem using their new written language and teaching adults to read and write in Aghem improving their social, political and economic opportunities.  Along the way, the translators help with other community development initiatives to transform their community while keeping what is important in their culture.  This is one of the projects supported by One Book, a Canadian society.

Hope for the World 2012-12-02 Luke 3:1-6

Hope is a simple, complex experience.  It must be for something which is not yet, but could be. The capacity to hold on to a hope depends in part on our awareness of the riches that are available to us, and the decision to hope is a decision we make.  Here are two stories, one about awareness of what we have, and the next is about making choices.

The Lunch Bag (a true story of Robert Fulghum and his 7-year-old daughter Molly)  Submitted by: Debra Stitt 14 Sept. 1999

It was Molly’s job to hand her father his brown paper lunch bag each morning before he headed off to work. One morning, in addition to his usual lunch bag, Molly handed him a second paper bag. This one was worn and held together with duct tape, staples, and paper clips. “Why two bags” Fulghum asked.

“The other is something else,” Molly answered.

“What’s in it?”

“Just some stuff. Take it with you.”

Not wanting to hold court over the matter, Fulghum stuffed both sacks into his briefcase, kissed Molly and rushed off. At midday, while hurriedly scarfing down his real lunch, he tore open Molly’s bag and shook out the contents: two hair ribbons, three small stones, a plastic dinosaur, a pencil stub, a tiny sea shell, two animal crackers, a marble, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses, and 13 pennies. Fulghum smiled, finished eating, and swept the desk clean — into the wastebasket — leftover lunch, Molly’s junk and all.

That evening, Molly ran up behind him as he read the newspaper. “Where’s my bag?”

“What bag?”

“You know, the one I gave you this morning.”

“I left it at the office. Why?”

“I forgot to put this note in it,” she said. “And, besides, those are my things in the sack, Daddy, the ones I really like – I thought you might like to play with them, but now I want them back. You didn’t lose the bag, did you, Daddy?”

“Oh, no,” he said, lying. “I just forgot to bring it home. I’ll bring it tomorrow.”

While Molly hugged her father’s neck, he unfolded the note that had not made it into the sack: “I love you, Daddy.” Molly had given him her treasures. All that a 7-year-old held dear. Love in a paper sack, and he missed it — not only missed it, but had thrown it in the wastebasket. So back he went to the office. Just ahead of the night janitor, he picked up the wastebasket and poured the contents on his desk. After washing the mustard off the dinosaurs and spraying the whole thing with breath-freshener to kill the smell of onions, he carefully smoothed out the wadded ball of brown paper, put the treasures inside and carried it home gingerly, like an injured kitten. The bag didn’t look so good, but the stuff was all there and that’s what counted.

After dinner, he asked Molly to tell him about the stuff in the sack. It took a long time to tell. Everything had a story or a memory or was attached to dreams and imaginary friends. Fairies had brought some of the things. He had given her the chocolate kisses, and she had kept them for when she needed them.

“Sometimes I think of all the times in this sweet life,” Fulghum concludes the story, “when I must have missed the affection I was being given. A friend calls this ‘standing knee deep in the river and dying of thirst’.”

We should all remember that it’s not the destination that counts in life — it’s the journey.

As we look ahead to Christmas, what treasures are we failing to see in our lives?  Here is a story about choices.

John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to  say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘If I were any better, I would be twins!’  He was a natural motivator.   If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation. 

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked  him, ‘I don’t get it!  ‘You can’t be a positive person all of the time.  How do you do it?’
He replied, ‘Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices  today. You can choose to be in a good mood or…you can choose to be in a bad mood  I choose to be in a good mood.  Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.  Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or….I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.
‘Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,’ I protested.
‘Yes, it is,’ he said. ‘Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood.   You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.’
I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.  Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications  tower.   After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.   I saw  him about six months after the accident.
When I asked him how he was, he replied, ‘If I were any better, I’d be twins…Wanna see my scars?’
I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.  ‘The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,’ he replied. ‘Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or…I could choose to die. I chose to live.’
‘Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?’ I asked.
He continued, ‘…the paramedics were great.  They kept telling me I was going to be fine.. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’. I knew I needed to take action.’ 

“What did you do?’ I asked.

‘Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,’ said John. ‘She asked if I was allergic to anything ‘Yes, I replied.’ The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity”   Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.’  He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude….I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.  Attitude, after all, is everything.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ Matthew 6:34.  After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

John went to the desert because he hoped that God was about to do something dramatic for the oppressed people of Israel, and he chose to serve God by paving the way for this change.

My hope for the world is that eventually we will get it right, that everyone will see all people as brothers and sisters worthy of respect, love and care.  I am realistic enough to know that our progress towards that goal will have many setbacks as well as steps forward, but I will continue to hope even in times such as now when we seem to be sliding backward.  And I will continue to choose, as best as I can, to live in ways that fit my hopes.

What are you hopes?  What are you choosing to do to help make your hopes a reality? (Silence)

Everything begins as an idea.  The evolution of that idea into reality includes sharing and refining the idea, creating a strategy to make it real, and following through until it is reality.  Our dream home started as an idea, followed by the purchase of a lot, followed by research and many hours of designing and drafting to get it to the point where we were ready to get financing, take a course on contracting, and hire contractors to do what we were not able or prepared to do.  There were also hundreds of hours of our own labour from clearing trees to pounding nails before the home was done.

If our hopes are important enough, we will do almost anything to bring them to reality.  Are our hopes as followers of Jesus important enough for us to do all we can to make them reality?

The people behind One Book hope for a world in which every person will be able to read and write in their own language, including the Bible, and are committed to helping people with 250 languages achieve this. May the God of Hope fill our hearts with longing for a world transformed by the love of Jesus and God. May the Spirit fill our minds with ways to make the best of our hopes real.

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