Choose love and hope, not fear

Choose Love and hope, not fear -- The Pueblo Chieftain
Published: December 4, 2015; Last modified: December 4, 2015 11:30PM

Many churches are observing the four-week period before Christmas known as Advent. Not every Christian tradition celebrates Advent, but many do.

Typically, a church (or a family) will have an Advent wreath with four candles in a circle on the outside ring that represent hope, peace, joy and love. The fifth candle in the middle of the wreath is white and represents Christ. As a candle is lit each week, we reflect on the presence of the light of God.

Advent is a period of hopeful expectation of the arrival of God. For those of us who observe Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas give us time to devote some intentional thoughts about what the incarnation of God into our world means, and how we might respond to it. We spend some time anticipating the birth of Jesus, we spend some time contemplating the here and now, and we spend some time looking toward the future, when the promises of God’s kingdom will be fully realized.

Events of the last few weeks have demonstrated that Advent is coming none too soon. It seems that of late, the world is filled with fear, discord, misery, hate. It sure does seem mighty gloomy sometimes.

Fear is casting a long shadow, and that shadow distorts how we see the world around us.

Fear is telling us that there is not enough to go around. Fear is telling us that someone might be getting our share. Fear is telling us that we have to do whatever we have to do to get ahead. Fear is telling us that we are on our own and that we have to look out for number one. Fear is telling us that we have to draw clear lines of distinction between who we are and who “they” are so that we know that we are right, good, in, saved, safe.

Some say the Bible contains the phrase “do not fear” 365 times. I don’t know for sure. I haven’t counted. But even if the number is half, that’s a lot. God comes into our world to show us how to live out “do not fear.” The incarnation of God means that love has broken in to our every day — an amazing, abundant, generous, radical, life-altering love. God comes into the world to show us how to embody hope, peace, love and joy.

Now, I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never been scared. If “there is no fear in love” and if “perfect love casts out fear,” (1 John 4:18), then I‘ve often fallen short of showing perfect love. But I get glimpses of it every once in a while, glimpses that remind me that yes, God is present and active in our world today. All I need to do is pay attention.

The incarnation of hope is in the little boy who offered his $20 life savings to Muslims whose mosque was vandalized.

The incarnation of love is in those who used Twitter and the hashtag #PorteOuverte to let people stranded in Paris know they had a place to stay.

The incarnation of joy is in all of the people who were a part of the recent community Thanksgiving dinner.

The incarnation of peace is in all of those who stand up and speak out against words and actions that are intended to drive us apart rather than bring us together.

My prayer for all of us is that we can open our hearts wider, give our love more freely, speak more gently, shine our lights a little brighter, and embrace the world the way God has shown us how — with love.