In 1868, standing on the hills of Palestine, looking down on the town of Bethlehem, Philip Brooks wrote the words to O Little Town of Bethlehem. A line from the song says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Bethlehem, a town where even today hope and fear collide, becomes the birth place of God’s light.
For many, it has been more of a year of fear than hope: a job loss, a failed marriage, broken dreams, bad health, or the death of someone we love. We are surrounded by a culture of fear and governed by a politics of fear.
What do you say to the fears that loom over Christmas, “pass more egg-nog” or “give me another slice of pie?” “Place more presents under the tree” or “switch aging-cream brands?”
When the latest breaking news seems louder than the angel’s pronouncing good news, you lean in even more closely to the Advent and Christmas season. More than ever, we need to hear again the message of the angels to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11).
Our focus this Advent is that you and your family will be captured by the thrill of hope that comes with this season. We will pronounce hope boldly, because we believe God may act in us, through us, and beyond us in ways more than we could ever imagine. We will celebrate the season in hope, because we believe newness is on its way among us. Make plans to join us beginning Sunday, December 2, as we celebrate the coming of Christ in a message series called “A Thrill of Hope.” This series will be preached in all our worship environments.
The message of hope in the midst of fear is something worth sharing. We want to encourage you to invite your friends, co-workers, and family members to join you during this special season. Advent worship with all the beauty of candle lighting and seasonal music is a great time to invite others to be with you.
Hope will also be communicated by our generosity. In Tanzania, 1 in 9 children die before their 5th birthday, and 1 in 15 do not make it through their 1st year. Lack of quality medical care is a major contributor to these deaths.
An estimated 34% of Tanzanian children are growth stunted due to chronic malnutrition, well above global averages.
We have an opportunity to invest in giving hope to these children through a partnership with Dr. Stephen Swanson and Selian Hospital in Tanzania. Our 2018 Christmas Eve Offering will go towards funding the medical needs of children suffering from malnutrition. Our $20,000 goal has the potential to provide medical care for 300-500 children a year. You can go to gfumc.com/christmas to learn more.
Christmas has its affect, because it is evidence of God’s love for us. Christmas is God’s assurance to a frightened world that God is with us. “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel – God with us. In a world manipulated by fear, God dwells. This is the thrill of hope we are anticipating this Advent season.
I look forward to being with you during Advent.
Rev. Jamey Prickett