Christmas - A time to build hope

A New Unity Sunday Gathering

 

At this darkest time of the year, human beings have long sought to bring a light against the gloom
We come to bring light
We come to join our strength together
We come to bring greater possibility to one another, to our communities, and to our world
Let us come here to be a light to others
Let us bring the light of hope into the darkness


Readings

 

Reflections on the Resurgence of Joy by Dori Jeanine Somers

How short the daylight hours have now become.
How grey the skies, how barren seem the trees.
A damp and chilling wind has gripped my mind and made me gloomy, too.
But there is that in me which reaches up toward the light and laughter, bells, and carolers,
And knows that my religious myth and dream of reborn joy and goodness must be true,
Because it speaks the truths of older myths;
That light returns to balance darkness, life surges in the evergreen – and us,
As babes are hope, and saviors of the world, as miracles abound in common things.

 

Reading from Howard Zinn

To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.


Message, by Andy Pakula

 

We are just two days away from the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. On that day, there will be only 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 50 seconds of daylight. And that’s assuming the sky is clear!

At this time of the year, our ancestors sought to bring light into the world. They may have lit their bonfires and lamps to encourage the return of life-sustaining sunshine. Maybe they did it just to ease the sorrow brought about by so much night.

And we do this still. At Hanukkah just past and Diwali not long ago, the symbols and practices are all about light.

And there’s another holiday coming in just a few days - as if you could miss it even if you tried. Christmas is everywhere and we may all be more aware of Christmas than we want to be.

This season is a wonderful one for some. It is indifferent for many whose traditions never included a winter holiday.

And it for others, this is a very difficult time of year.

Some have had losses at this time of year and the festivities grate against and deepen the sorrow they feel.

Some remember Christmas of the past and find themselves lonely now. For them, Christmas is a time to get through - to survive - rather than to relish.

But Christmas is special - not just because of lights or trees or shopping or receiving presents or the festive food and drink of the season. Christmas is a time symbolised by the birth of a child. This child was not a king. He was no one special. He was born to poor parents forced by an oppressive regime to travel while the mother was heavily pregnant.

                                                            Image from http://www.barbdahlgren.com

                                                            Image from http://www.barbdahlgren.com

And this lowly birth brought hope of a different kind of future. The baby grew into a man who was a great and inspiring teacher. Jesus taught of love. He taught of of justice. He taught of acceptance. His conflict with his own people was about the tension between two religious values - the religious purity of the priestly tradition or the love and justice of the prophetic tradition.

And Jesus - who associated with those considered impure - was firmly on the side of love. Maybe not as radically inclusive as we are, but for his time and place, he was radical indeed.
In our world today, we know that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, are finding themselves forced to travel for their own survival. They are men and women and many children. They have no place to stay - there is little or no room at the inn of the developed nations.

And into this darkness too, we can bring hope.

As most of you know, two courageous people from New Unity - Kirby Costa-Campos and Sophie Yau - returned Monday from a week on the Greek Island of Leros. There, they helped men and women and children and babies - refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

These refugees are living through a dark time. They have had to choose between the horrific dangers or remaining in the lands they consider home and embarking on the treacherous journey to find safety.

Kirby and Sophie were on Leros to bring some light into that darkness. They did that. They changed things for people in desperate straits. And, as Kirby will tell you, it changed them as well.

[Kirby shares her reflections on Leros. Please email admin@new-unity.org for copy of text]

Do you have a grain of hope to share?

Hope is the thing that makes it possible to get up in the morning when life has been difficult - when we face illness, grief, and danger. Hope is the thing that reminds us it can get better - it will get better - although maybe not in the way we expected.

Each of us has had the need to find hope in our lives. Sometimes, others have helped us find that grain and make it increase.

Perhaps it is the seasons of nature and the fact that the light does, inevitably, balance the dark times. Or it may be the laughter and caroling and bells and joy that humans bring.

And perhaps it is the fact that, as the liberal historian Howard Zinn reminds us, “...human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness.”

[The congregation is invited to tie messages of hope to a Christmas tree]


Into the darkness of this season, bring light
Into the dark and hurt places in human hearts, bring love
Into the fearful shadows of the world’s despair, bring hope
With a kind word, a warm smile, a gentle touch, and a helping hand, we can illuminate the world