Written by Gregg Brekke
Advent Season is upon us once again!
When this season rolls around each year, it is common to take stock of the year that has passed while preparing for the coming of the Christ child at the same time. We wait for the miracle of Jesus' birth to be revealed once again.
When the challenges of the year loom heavy, we must do our best to focus our hearts and minds in an attitude of hope and anticipation. Advent is a fond reminder that we are followers of the risen Christ - called to active discipleship which requires that we love and support one another in times of joy or times of hardship.
What a year it has been! Looking back on a year like this it may be difficult to find good news, but it is there nonetheless. Story after story reminds us that neighbors by the thousands are stepping up to help one another. These unsteady circumstances bring us together because most likely, someone close to us is experiencing some kind of hardship.
For more than a year, people in the U.S. and across the globe experienced the effects of a massive economic downturn that hit millions. While most economists sent signal after warning signal, it seemed that we were stuck between denial and anxiety about how it would really play out.
Well, we now know.
Banks closed without warning. Smaller banks were bought out by big and more powerful ones. The U.S. automobile industry crashed. Major international commodity transportation companies took their business elsewhere. Thousands of people lost their jobs and joined the long lines of those looking for work. While there were many tragic stories of loss, what is also present is the resilient hope expressed by so many. What is also present are thousands of people helping other people.
The mortgage collapse a year and a half ago affected thousands who had put their hope and anticipation in home ownership for the first time. Their hopes were dashed when foreclosures numbered in the thousands. Neighborhoods across the land were vacated and families dispersed looking for a place to live. For example, in some areas of Cleveland the average price for a home dwindled to less than $20,000.
In spite of these hardships, ways were found to help people stay in their homes. Faith communities and social service agencies are pulling out all the stops to provide the urgent and essential needs of families, especially those with small children and elderly parents to look after.
The huge complexities of our economic structures are hard to understand. However, this crash revealed that we must address the major systems that contribute to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. While we do that, we step up and contribute to the well-being of every single person who needs it.
In the midst of this crisis, we must also appeal to our elected leaders to find diplomatic ways to end our participation in two tragic wars that are costing thousands of human lives and billions of dollars. We cannot justify spending money in warfare while at the same time complaining about the cost of health care. It does not balance out no matter how we try to explain it. Let us transform our hostility into hospitality this Advent season of hope and anticipation.
There is a greater sense of urgency this year, more than years past, to be in solidarity and companionship with all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, income, abilities or immigration status.
In June of this year, General Synod 27 of the United Church of Christ called us as a church family to respond in human service, social action and prayer to those who need our assistance. During the next six weeks, ideas to support local churches and communities will be posted on our website. Look for Keeping You e-Posted each Tuesday at http://www.ucc.org/keeping-you-eposted.
Friends, Jesus is the reasons for the season. So as we light the Advent candles in anticipation of His coming, let us continue to pray out loud. Let us pray out loud so everyone can hear that, as Christians, we are a people of hope, generosity, hospitality and peace.
The Rev. Linda Jaramillo is Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the UCC's five-person Collegium of Officers.