The Hope of the World

The first Christmas was about hunger and hope.

Of course, the hunger part of the story is either forgotten or ignored as we rush through stores in search of the perfect gifts for friends who have everything.

We sing about joy to the world, the silence of the night, the jingle of bells and the dreams of a white Christmas. We overeat, overspend and generally overextend ourselves. We light candles, hang wreaths, wrap gifts and send cards.

We attend church services, hearing sermons about the prophecies of the Messiah, the gifts of wise men and the message of angels.

But the Gospel According to Luke recounts the real story that we must recover for our own personal and social good. Luke records the birth of a child in a manger, a place where the poor huddle, in a town whose name means "house of bread." Luke recalls that this birth is first celebrated by the working poor--the shepherds.

Luke even remembers Mary's song sang prior to the birth of Jesus which glorifies God as the One who scatters the proud, dethrones the power-brokers, exalts the lowly, fills the hungry with food and sends the rich away empty handed.

So, what is Luke driving at? The manger, the house of bread, the shepherds and the song of Mary represent evidence of the impoverished world in which God comes.

For Luke, Christmas is about God's shocking presence among the poorest members of a tiny Palestinian village who are hungry, in ill-health and most in need of real hope that sometime soon something would change their marred existence. Christmas is about the living God who comes as the Hope Child into a hungry world to make a world of difference.

At the Hope Child's consecration, his parents are so poor that they could only afford two turtledoves. In the wilderness of his own, vocational decision making, the Hope Child rejects the temptations of self-serving material, political and religious gain. Instead, he commits himself to setting free the poor, the prisoners, the ill, the oppressed.

Maybe this Christmas, we will hear the bells ring that the Hope Child brings us a challenge.

Our challenge is that we will see the commitment that the Hope Child made and that we will seek the good we share in common, giving renewed hope to the vision born 2,000 years ago.

Let us pray this Christmas that those who are hungry might have bread, and that those of us who have bread might have a hunger to be charitable and to do justice for the common good.

That's the hope of the world.

Robert Parham is BCE's executive director.

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