It is hard to imagine that it was just 10 years ago that there was a great deal of fuss and bother over “Y2K.” Computer systems were going to fail, all the ATM’s were going to crash and the entire world’s technology infrastructure was in peril. You may not remember it because none of it happened.
On the other hand, the first decade of the third millennium has not exactly been a walk in the park. The seminal event was the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, followed by two protracted wars and the ever-looming specter of further terrorist assaults, the most recent attempt on Christmas. Added to a culture filled with anxiety was enough political scandal to keep the most cynical occupied, deep polarization of the population and an economic crisis that has left 10 percent of the workforce idle with many more under-employed and fearful. Few tears will be shed for the passing of the decade.
In his book, The Five Things We Cannot Change, David Richo confronts what he calls the “unavoidable givens” of life and relationships and charts a pathway to contentment by embracing them: 1) Everything changes and ends, 2) Things do not always go according to plan, 3) Life is not always fair, 4) Pain is part of life, 5) People are not loving and loyal all the time. Our tendency is to find a scapegoat; name the culprit that is responsible for our present state. This will only lead us to despair. By embracing the predicaments of life rather than trying to control the outcomes, we are able to grow through both the difficult times and the good.
There was something different about this Christmas in our community of faith. It is hard to put my finger on it, but it just felt a little warmer. There seemed to be more hugging going on here at the end of what has been a terribly trying year at the end of a difficult decade. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the warmth did not feel like it was coming from a sense of desperation but rather a sense of hope. Perhaps hard times have reminded us of how much we need each other; how much we need to be neighbors; how little our worth is tied up in things. It was in difficult times that the people were encouraged by word of a light in the world that darkness cannot swallow. Maybe this was the year to be reminded of that because the lights shimmering along Chandler Boulevard somehow just looked a little more hopeful.
Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks us all. Afterward some are stronger in the broken places.” Hope is not just a fantastic wish that things will get better. Hope is built on accepting our predicaments and moving forward, doing the things that will make us stronger in the places where we have been broken. Hope is believing that light is stronger than darkness, that love is better than hate and that it is in peacemaking that we are truly blessed.
Steve Hammer is the associate pastor at Esperanza Lutheran Church in Ahwatukee Foothills.