By Rev. Dr. Marcus Leathers
As time was drawing closer to Christmas Day, my daughter had been utilizing her time in a craft workshop to create something for her brother. At that time, it was prior to our son’s second birthday. I don’t recall having any knowledge of what the craft was that had given our daughter so much excitement.
In its simplicity, our daughter’s craft for her brother was significantly thoughtful and spiritually touching. The craft was special because of the diligence it required of her small hands and big imagination. The craft she made for her brother was his first Christmas ornament to be hung our Christmas tree. Our daughter’s thoughtfulness shown towards her brother was a lovely small angel that she gently placed into his hands (once in our son’s hands and attempting to get this angel so hopefully given hung securely on the Christmas tree, mom and I had to prevent this fragile gift from becoming crushed and banged against anything that a toddler might perceived as something that would make a joyful noise). Once this angel was in place on the tree, we appreciated our hopeful anticipation. Crafted for her brother from construction paper, gold and purple pipe cleaners for wings and trimmings, we had anticipation we could look forward to using this special ornament as Christmas for as many as it could endure.
As a family in America, especially on the morning of that Christmas, we were aware of our fortunate circumstances as well as the less fortunate circumstances of others. From our lives and our resources, we had shared with others, yet guilt still resided with me—from what I had received, I wanted to do more and give more. Inside our home, there were modest gifts underneath the Christmas tree. Christmas carols and songs of the season could be heard all over our house. Underneath the Fraser Fir, there were toys, games, and some clothing. Our son was of such age that there was always a possibility that in the first hours of Christmas morning he might be more enamored with the fancy boxes and bows than the toy inside the box waiting to be unwrapped.
As I watched our children sharing such a precious time on Christmas morning, my heart was filled by an experience that was unfamiliar and exhilarating at the same time. Unlike the gifts underneath the Christmas tree, the experience I felt deeply within couldn’t be wrapped neatly with fancy paper and include a bow. It was precious but not like an expensive jewel. I couldn’t hold on to it, adore it and then place it somewhere safe without the risk of it becoming broken, lost or even worst stolen from me. It was right in front me, growing brilliantly and with great expectation—family and all of the hopes and prayers that one casts upon those loved deeply.
God gives the image of family as nothing less than sacred, holy. The compassion and comfort of Jesus Christ teaches us that the ways to exist as family are broad and bold, just like God’s mercy and justice. As a Christian and the many ways that I have experienced the joy and fellowship of family (traditional definitions of family, family through church fellowships, family as community networks and civic organizations, etc.)
God has the power to surprise earth with heaven through ways that are both unfamiliar and exhilarating. I have grown to become less fearful of hope’s fragility and more confident in hope’s divine design and fortitude. If this were not the case then what I have experienced wouldn’t have been hope but perhaps, some frustrated nod toward fortuity (chance).
In the bible, I don’t recall God’s prophets or even Jesus stating that hope had to be protected but rather hope must be proclaimed. Hope was and remains the “tidings of great joy” from the angels. Hope was and remains the messengers’ song to unsuspecting shepherds keeping watch in the field. Hope was and remains Jesus’ birth within a world which said, “there isn’t any room.” Hope was and remains as the devoted witness of holy communities’ commitments to all aspects of justice and mercy, even in the face of the mockeries of these principles within the some of the highest offices of earthly systems and institutions. Hope was and remains as the faithful promise that God who knows us and whom we know through Jesus Christ who comes into the lives of God’s people in ways both unfamiliar and exhilarating.