December 9, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Advent season offers the uniquely Christian belief in hope

Cynthia DewesImagine a world in which we are urged to limit carbon dioxide emissions because they are toxic at the same time that we humans give off carbon dioxide with every breath we exhale?

Imagine that many people worldwide lack enough food to survive, while other people often toss food in the garbage?

Imagine that women are routinely abused and treated as inferiors in some areas, while in others their interests receive more respect than men’s seem to?

Wait a minute. We do live in such a world because humans are in charge of it, and we are human.

And, being human, we do stuff like legalize the killing of unwanted babies, while lavishing time and money on preserving endangered animals and making our pets comfortable. Or we demonize individuals or groups who differ from us at the same time that we publicly decry racism and intolerance.

We keep electing incompetent or ethically challenged leaders because we are too busy to examine issues, research candidates or even run for office ourselves. We resent government entitlements or welfare, and then not only tolerate but sometimes legalize support for things like cohabitation without marriage or the supposed marriage of same-sex couples.

We’re busily destroying traditional families in other ways—by lifting legal responsibility for the care of children from their two parents when they should be offering their children gender and parental role modeling, unconditional love and the security of their support. Instead of complaining about kids today, maybe we should be complaining about parents.

What a depressing picture. But wait! Now we are in the season of Advent, the coming of “hope.”

To be a Christian is to have hope for the human race and its future. To be a Christian means that we believe we are made in the image of a good and loving God who sent his Son to show us what that means.

Naturally, we can’t personally or even collectively improve everything overnight. But we certainly can and should try to do what we can in our own corner of the world. We can put aside problems and even forget them for a while by finding ways to serve others. Maybe we could help out at the St. Vincent de Paul Society or visit folks in nursing homes or baby-sit for the frazzled young mother next door.

We can try to find Jesus in everyone we meet—even if it takes a while. We can expect the best from others and even help them to deliver it by accepting them lovingly without judgment. It’s surprising what hating the sin but loving the sinner can do for you, if not the sinner himself.

As Christians, we also believe that God is just, which is the aspect of God that the Jews emphasized. But when Christ came in to his-story on the wonderful feast of Christmas, the emphasis changed to include God’s mercy. God has given us free will, and will be just in judging how we employ it, but God will also be merciful in helping us to overcome our failures.

The message, of course, is that we should work to avoid wrongdoing, but we should also be joyful. Joy is the hallmark of hope, which is the hallmark of a Christian.

Sure, bad things will inevitably happen, some of them even caused by ourselves.

Still, we can continue to look ahead to better days with the same innocent trust we see in the sweet baby whose birth we await.

Blessed Advent, blessed hope.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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