Comfort and Joy

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“God sent me to announce the year of his grace—a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—and to comfort all who mourn” ~Isaiah 61:2.

A couple of days ago, there was another shooting at another Denver-area high school.  The shooter killed himself after shooting another student.  She remains in critical condition.  And this happened almost a year to the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took 26 lives (20 children, 6 adults).  I remember thinking about the massacre of children surrounding Jesus’ toddlerhood–a story we don’t often sermonize at Christmastime.  I nearly left the service today when we prayed for the Sandy Hook victims’ families and then for Claire Davis as she fights for survival.

When the evil of this world touches children, we all should ask, “What can I/we change that may prevent this horror in the future?”  We may not find satisfactory answers; but we need to ask the question.

I find myself pondering more and more the questions of life.  I wish I could say I find creative answers in that pondering.  I remember Jo Anne Worley (a female comedienne of the 1960s and 1970s) saying that she dreamt one night that she found the answer to all the world’s problems.  She woke up long enough to write it down so that she’d remember it in the morning.  When she got up the next day, she looked at her notebook.  She had scribbled “Cottage cheese” in her dream notebook.  I laughed during that interview.  As I remember with nostalgia days where profound answers came on bumper stickers and posters, I know now that answers seldom come in sound-bytes.

As we decorate with bright lights and tinsel, bake and frost Christmas cookies, buy and wrap gifts with beautiful ribbon, maybe we can also remember to say a prayer for Claire Davis and all the others who are fighting for life or sanity during this festive time.  Praying may not seem like much; but I believe that if we all accept a dose of humility each day that we cannot solve the world’s problems with any quick, trite or simplistic phrase, then maybe in those acts of prayer we will find a simplicity of wisdom that reminds us to treat each other kindly, gently, tenderly.

I love that the prophets foretold that Jesus would announce the favor of God in our midst.  I love that God wants to communicate grace, compassion and healing.  In learning humility, I pray that we learn that our enemies are not flesh and blood–people who cut us off on the freeway or say and do insensitive things.  Our enemies lie much deeper within ourselves–arrogance, devaluing lives, emotional toxicity and indifference to suffering in others.  While I personally can’t end world hunger, I can drop a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, make a donation to a clean water charity, volunteer at an underprivileged school, donate clothing or coats that just hang in my closet.  I can get to know my neighbors and see if together we can make a bigger dent in poverty, medical missions and companionship needs than I could individually.

Today, I pray for Claire Davis.  I will pray for her and her family while I bake my daughter’s favorite Christmas cookies.  Tomorrow and in the coming year, I can look for opportunities to set aside portions of my busy-ness and ‘to-do’ lists and proclaim God’s favor in the lives of people I meet.  A smile, a handshake, a conversation, a donation of time to a person or organization that desperately needs human contact.  Jesus interacted personally, humanly, humbly.

As the Advent season continues, may we all start to look past the shopping, the wrapping, the parties and begin to love with our lives and not just with gifts.

How can you ‘proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor’ in others’ lives?  Have you volunteered for organizations that help others in need?  What have those experiences taught you?

 

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