Recently on a cold rainy morning drive to the cathedral, I listened for the first time to an early Christmas present from a member of my congregation. Andrea Bocelli was singing the following words from the song, "I Believe", on his newest Christmas CD: "One day I'll hear the laugh of children in a world where war has been banned. One day I'll see men of all colors sharing words of love and devotion. Stand up and feel the Holy Spirit; find the power of your faith. Open your heart to those who need you in the name of love and devotion. Yes I believe."
This has been a very difficult year for so many in our nation and the world. Many have lost their jobs and many are struggling to make ends meet. South Carolinians are amongst the hardest hit within our nation. We seem to live in a time where low expectations for our leaders, business institutions, churches, schools, economy and sports heroes are the norm. Even the golf great Tiger Woods' scandalous fall from grace does not surprise us as it should. There is an apparent hopelessness in every sector of our lives, and yet, just when we may be tempted to succumb, hope is born anew at Christmas.
"For unto us is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11-12) "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14)
I for one am not willing to give up on the inherent goodness and love of God's creation - a love I believe so great that God was willing to become like one of us. However not like everyone of us, but rather as an infant born to parents in poverty and without power as defined by their place in society. What is perhaps most astounding though about God's Word taking the form of the Christ-child, is that like every other infant at birth, Jesus could not speak. The Word of God came silently into the world and yet was beheld by those who witnessed this event, the nativity, to be the very hope of the world. What they could not have known was that this was to be a hope that reached beyond the boundaries of all faiths and peoples with a timeless invitation to love and serve God's children in need.
Certainly people are in great need throughout our nation and world, but within our own beloved state of South Carolina we do not have to look long or hard to see dramatic situations where individuals and families are living in poverty. These, however, are the same places that during this season we can see the hopeful and timeless act of God's coming into the world at Christmas reenacted through the generous hearts and actions of many.
This was the first year that my family stepped beyond the boundaries of what we normally contribute through the church and responded as well to the WIS-TV Palmetto Project, which each year seeks to make the Christmases of those less fortunate in our state a bit more blessed and hopeful. The goal this year was to aid 1,600 families, and at our Thanksgiving table I asked my wife and children if they would join me in adopting one such family.
I share this with you only to illustrate the point that we received so much more than we could ever give. And it was the day that I walked into the warehouse to drop off the wrapped gifts for our adopted family, that I saw before me through the smiles of the volunteers and an enormous space carefully filled with hundreds and hundreds of gifts for families, the hope of the Christ-child born anew.
My prayer for all of us as we approach the celebration of this special and holy season is that we dare to raise the level of expectations for what we can be and do as a people of God. Open your heart to those in need in the name of love and devotion to the God who opened His heart to us through the Babe, the Son of Mary. Yes, I believe hope can be born anew. It is all around us.