Spiritual Practice

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years – Does That Include Our Years?

The hopes and fears of all the years – What does that make you think of? That’s a LOT of human life.

How the Hopes and Fears of All the Years Showed Up in Jesus’ Lifethe hopes and fears of all the years

Simultaneous intensity of joy and sorrow –

that is a big part of the story of Christmas. The star, angels, magi, and a baby called “God With Us” began a sequence that took Jesus fairly quickly through contempt and conspiracy to be humiliated, tortured and murdered. The events of those years had him in tears at times, both for the nation’s loss – which he felt profoundly – and for his own. While the old seers in the temple in Jesus’ infancy found deep joy in his appearance, the word simultaneously came to Mary, “a sword will pierce your own heart also.”

No wonder Jesus was not exactly a happy-go-lucky sort of guy.

But he did love those people, and he did do parties. Nor was he a wet blanket on such occasions; his presence was welcomed and appreciated. And there were other times for him of extraordinary joy and pleasure. But this, we have to remember, was in a world of oppressions, cruelties, exploitations, and brutal incompetencies of great extent. It seems likely to me that he was much more intensely, painfully aware of those evils than were any of his contemporaries – or any of us today for that matter.

He knew he had come to meet all those things head on. Some of our Christmas songs remind us of this. “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” for example. “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given”;

“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Jesus’ Gospel is not a happy go lucky, cutesy, cheerily indifferent, grinning, self-righteous stupidity. Nor is it a triumphalist, bullying arrogance.
It is precious to me, and very important, that the Gospel I believe in is so bluntly realistic about human experience and human moral reality. This is not a happy go lucky, cutesy, cheerily indifferent, grinning, self-righteous stupidity. Nor is it a triumphalist, bullying arrogance. Where it finds or creates joy, there is really JOY. And where it finds sorrow, it faces it, drinks it up, survives it, and transforms it. It’s the real thing, the strongest thing. It always amazes me.

And it is an honor to share in those sufferings, and those joys,

as they continue even today, in my life and our world-life. He does not ask me to rule the world, or even to understand it, but he does ask me to believe in and serve his intelligence and his moral power to bring all things, even contemporary things, into his greater and more real victory. Martin King said, “The arc of the universe bends slowly, but it bends toward justice.” Christian theology holds that our human “universe” does so – “bends toward justice” – because of the immense power of the sufferings and victories of this one Man, and of those who genuinely honor his values and his agenda.

  • Does Jesus care about our arrogant brutality in Iraq (these words were first written as an 0p-ed in 2004),
  • and about those Iraqis and Americans (mostly Iraqis) who are suffering it right now?
  • Does Jesus care about American corporations running sweatshops and slave labor in other countries?
  • Does Jesus care about (our legislators’) abuse of our troops, veterans, and their families?
  • Does Jesus care about school kids enduring crowded classrooms without textbooks?
  • Does Jesus care about the greed of the wealthy that despises “the common people” who “heard Him gladly”?
  • Does Jesus care about irresponsible damage to the economy that injures millions of us and will injure many more for many years to come?

He does care, and always has. Concerns like that took him to the place of execution.

Gandhi and the “satyagraha” of millions of nonviolent Indians freed India from a British regime that was not a whole lot nicer than the Romans’ regime in Jesus day. Surely there is as great a force for good available to Americans through the Christian Gospel. That’s not all Christmas means to me, but it is a big part of it.

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee.”

We need to find, live personally, and publically leverage the powerful realism and the great moral subversive power that the Christmas story brings.

(This article is slightly edited from one published as a Christmas op-ed in 2004.  Are things better or worse now?)


How Christians Perpetuate The War on Christmas, or Not

2 Short Posts Considering – Do the Hopes and Fears of All the Years Have Any Connections to Economics and Politics?

Hark! the Herald Angels Sang! — At the Wrong Place!!  (4 min read)

That was either a public relations / media disaster, OR a strong statement about the whole God-Jesus moral and social agenda.

Political Worship Songs? Mary and Zechariah’s Songs (in Luke 1) are Blatantly Political. (7 min read)

Here’s some blunt stuff!  Maybe there are reasons we almost never hear these songs preached about very thoughtfully.

2 Cowboy Christmas Poems – from Real Cowboys

A Prairie Prayer (Christmas Poem) (Howard Raymond) (2 min read)

The coyote singing to the stars is my symphony at night
And the yellow moon a’risin’ speeds it’s kindly light.
I’m forty miles from Wal-Mart, yet it don’t seem so far.

Cowboy’s Christmas Prayer – Good Values  (S. Omar Barker) (3 min read)

A cowboy ain’t no preacher, Lord, but if You’ll hear my prayer,
I’ll ask as good as we have got for all men everywhere.
(See an article on Barker here, or some poetry here.)

5 Short Posts on the Right Wing’s Anti-Christmas Behavior

What About the Fox News War on Christmas? The Real Issue Is How CHRISTIANS BEHAVE.  (3 min read)

Just to be clear, it is people who profess faith in Christ without actually listening to him who are the ones waging “war on Christmas.”

The Real Scandal This Christmas – The House of Representatives  (3 min read) 

The House was a scandal to Christ-followers 18 years ago as well as right now. From 2005.

Funny Thing About X-mas  (2 min read)

Sadly, Christ is too often missing from the Christians themselves with their indifferent, bullying spirit.

Happy Holidays To You!! (Grrr!)  (3 min read) 

Jesus bobble-head?!  The Fox News War on Christmas foolishness – it’s embarrassing!

Christmas Reflections: Dangers from ‘Christianized’ Politics  (3 min read) 

Good guest post.

4 on What IS the Meaning of Christmas, Really?

New Year’s Resolutions – The Work of Christmas Begins (Howard Thurman, and Jesus)  (4 min read)

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins”Jesus
(Images with “The Work of Christmas”)

Merry Christmas If You Can  (2 min read)

Christmas can be an emotionally complex season – excerpts from an op-ed article I wrote in 2004.

“Peace on Earth” – but Not NOW, Of Course  (1 min read)

They believe in Jesus’ agenda, but not actually, not NOW for God’s sake!

Jesus Came Down His “Own Secret Stair”  (2 min read)

Extraordinary little poem from George MacDonald about Jesus coming among us NOT to “slay our foes and lift us high.” (See it: “That Holy Thing.”)

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