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Spirit of Hope, Christmas 2004

 

I love winter. The trees are bare, the skies are gray, and the earth lies dormant. The dried and spent leaves have fallen from their branches in anticipation of new growth. And here in this northern country, while it may seem at first glance that winter is the season of endings, I am reminded that the sun is already beginning its climb across the sky, bringing with it more light and fueling regrowth.

So winter becomes a time of hope, not looking back to the past but to the future, waiting to see what will be. And the glory of winter, on a day that falls at the beginning of that season, is a day of hope for Christians all over the world - Christmas.

Christmas: The words of the gospels of Matthew and Luke still surface from memory - the familiar story of Mary and Joseph's travels, Christ's birth, the angel's visit to the shepherds, and the gifts of the magi.

All are stories I memorized as a child and performed in countless church plays. And yet this year, as I read them again, I am struck by their newness. Their message is different now.

Where before my attention was only on the figure of Christ, now I am aware of all the other people whose lives intertwine in the story. Lives that are transformed by the birth of the Christ from despair to hope, from ordinary to extraordinary. Mary is made bold by the news of her new role and becomes ripe with the future, praising God with the exquisite words of the Magnificat, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

The shepherds' fear turns to anticipation as they follow the star eastward; Joseph's fear of being shamed turns to pride as he comes to understand the miracle that is taking place and chooses to remain by Mary's side. Each in turn has a change of heart as their fear turns to joy at the possibilities of a new beginning.

Where before they questioned the purpose of their life, now they find peace in knowing that they are part of God's plan. They have witnessed hope being born among them in the form of a tiny child and they are in awe.

So this winter season, I will mark the beginning of the new year with my own bold, extraordinary sense of hope. It might seem irrational to some, but I will hold tightly to it. I will watch as my life and others are transformed by this gift we have been given. It is not a one-time gift, but one that renews itself every year, like the seasons that replenish themselves.

Like the sun that begins its warming journey to earth, I renew myself by remembering the stories that surround the birth of Christ. In this season of winter, I look to the future, with bold hope that I can spread the message of peace and new beginnings that mark this Christmastime.

Eliza Drummond is a member of First Christian Church in Eugene. She serves on the Two Rivers Interfaith Steering Committee and is a planner for the Interfaith Prayer and Reflection Services. This column was written for the Register Guard and is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of more than 35 religious and spiritual traditions in the area. For more information, call 344-5693.

 


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