For twelve days, we have immersed ourselves in the story of the Incarnation as we celebrate Christmas. We have been reminded of God’s love for this world and have heard about the light that shines in the darkness, and we have begun the secular new year. Both Christmas and the new year are times of hope.
The series of blog posts begun here on the Green Sprouts page toward the end of Advent (Advent: Where Is Hope?, Truth and Hope, and The Present Reality) laid out some of the questions and facts to consider as we think about hope for this year and beyond.
Our eerily warm weather of Advent is gone, replaced by a deep chill and some snow in Nebraska. Even people who much prefer warmer weather have noted that “winter is finally here”; we know that more normal weather patterns are a blessing in many ways, especially in an agricultural state such as ours. But as a reminder that the weather this week in my own backyard and global climate trends are two very different things, the 2014 official climate reports have begun to appear. Andrew Freedman reports on Mashable that the Japan Meteorological Agency has now released preliminary data showing 2014 to be the warmest year since their record-keeping began in 1891. Freedman’s post notes:
Other studies, using data from ice cores, tree rings, corals and other so-called "proxy" data shows the planet has not been this warm in at least 4,000 years, while other data shows that the level of the main global warming gas has not been this high in all of human history.
In this rapidly warming world, how do we live as people who believe that the light will continue to shine in the darkness? How do we live as people of hope, and what kind of message of hope do we who are part of the Church, Christ’s body in the world, bring to the world in this time that is unlike any other humankind has experienced?
The Christmas story teaches us that what we hope for may come to us looking very different from what we expected. The Savior comes to us as an infant born in a stable, his birth proclaimed by angels not to the civic or religious leaders but to shepherds out in the fields.
Authentic hope differs from expectation. Hope is closely tied to faith. In the case of global warming, our hope is tied to faith in a good and loving God who created a universe that is ultimately good. Probably the thing we hope for in the case of global warming is something we can’t even describe or imagine. But there are some things we can imagine, and there are some things we can hope for without pretending that the darkness is not there.
A family faced with the terminal illness of a loved one can be hopeful despite knowing that they will almost certainly lose that loved one fairly soon. They can hope for a holy death for their loved one, a peaceful and relatively pain-free time with loving care. Similarly, we can hope in the years ahead to live holy lives, to love God and love our sisters and brothers with whom we share this planet. We can hope to care for God’s Creation, to care for the animals and plants whose lives are woven together with ours, grieving when they no longer exist and caring for those that remain.
We have seen in these posts that racism, greed, and violence are ingredients of our failure to act. These ancient problems need our attention now more than ever. Even as we work to mitigate or slow down global warming, we need to work harder than ever to end these evils and to tend to those who suffer the most from them. We need to pay attention to those suffering worst and first from the effects of global warming and alleviate suffering.
Hope that we might live holy lives in the midst of extreme difficulties includes a hope that we live lives of integrity and honesty. Even as we acknowledge the reality of climate change, we are called to be brave and creative and wise in working to mitigate its effects and give humankind its best shot at the future. We in the Church must put this work at the top of our agendas, realizing that many of the programs and concerns that were comfortable in the 20th century no longer can have priority this century. Following Christ must take precedence over following comfortable patterns.
As this Christmas draws to a close, we could continue business as usual, turning our backs on the light and wandering farther and farther into the darkness. or we can keep Christmas hope in our hearts and go out into the world to share the light of the incarnate Word.
Episcopalians have an opportunity right now to do something toward reorganizing our priorities. See the Nuray Love Parish’s Churchworks post One Thing All Episcopalians Must Consider by January 7th to find out how to spend a couple of minutes by January to encourage a greater priority for creation care in the proposed budget for TEC.