HOPE IN AN UNCERTAIN NEW YEAR
Uncertainty in the New Year
We read of expectations of a financial downturn in 2024, while the upcoming Presidential election is creating confusion, hostility and division. Wars continue between Ukraine and Russia, Israel and Hamas*. Poverty is rampant. We enter a new year after having celebrated, once again, the coming of the King to this earth.
The King who became a Baby
Born in a lowly stable, Jesus walked the earth with his disciples.
The King who became a baby grew up in a family in Nazareth. At age twelve, Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem for Passover. Returning home, they thought he was with friends in the group traveling together. But three days after they left the city, they couldn’t find Jesus.
Mary and Joseph searched for him. Returning to Jerusalem they finally found him, at twelve, in intense discussions with the rabbis and leaders in the Temple. When they questioned him, he said “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”
The King Offered Hope to All
Jesus performed many miracles, giving hope to the hopeless. When a wedding feast ran out of wine, he made water turn to wine to save the family embarrassment and shame. He healed the blind. Made the lame walk. Restored hearing. Raised a young girl, and a grieving mother’s son being taken for burial to life.
He also cleared out the Temple courtyard. Vendors had set up stalls to sell sheep, doves, and other goods. Because a blood sacrifice was required for the payment of people’s sins, they needed to bring an unblemished dove or sheep (dove for the very poor) to pay the penalty for their waywardness. The synagogue had commercialized sacrifice. Jesus hit hard, knocking over stalls and money, saying “You’ve taken my Father’s house of prayer and turned it to a den of thieves.” He challenged them to look at their hearts, at their love for God.
He is love; he is also holy. Jesus showed us God’s full character rather than just one characteristic.
So how does God’s character give us hope in an uncertain new year?
If we believe that our God is sovereign, that he loves us enough to send his Son to become one of us, to grow up and show us his character, to die on a tree he created but rise again three days later, conquering death, then we have hope!
Hope that whatever comes our way – whether tragedy, loss, joy, delight, friendship – God is with us. See my earlier post at https://www.carolloewen.com/challenges/.
Surviving the Survivors
I’ve been reading some amazing books, one a memoir called “Surviving the Survivors,” by Ruth Klein. She speaks of the impact of parents who survived the Holocaust on their children. Some second-generation children were thought of as replacing other children who didn’t survive, so had the burden of all the expectations of the earlier child placed on them. Others suffered abuse at the hands of parents who could not deal with the horrors through which they’d lived. While I’m sure there were happier homes among survivors, Klein recounts her own story, in which there is little hope, but some personal resolution.
Hope in a Japanese Prison Camp
Then I think of women like Darlene Rose, who was a newly-wed missionary in Papua, New Guinea, when the Japanese invaded during WWII. She and her husband were captured as spies and sent to separate POW camps. She never saw him again, but learned later he had died in camp.
When she felt she could not take one more day of cold, hunger, rat-infested cells, Mrs. Rose would call out to Jesus and he met her in her cell, giving her strength to continue.
She was at the point of being beheaded when a prior camp Commander, with whom she had built a respectful relationship, drove into the camp with horns honking to stop her murder. https://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Not-Seen-Miraculous-Jungles/dp/0060670207/ref=asc_df_0060670207/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312069097411&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=9898612565772650243&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9061322&hvtargid=pla-434206114773&psc=1&mcid=26e721a2b3f333ef8d231888ed5bd1a4&gclid=CjwKCAiA1-6sBhAoEiwArqlGPvMZr54XWe0dS999OHMK3WniLOQXiKCmf2Z2az4mfilo_mHrfaVHdhoCy6sQAvD_BwE
Hope During the Congolese Rebellion
Or Helen Roseveare, who was a missionary doctor in the Congo during their 1964 rebellion. She was beaten, savagely raped, and held captive. She said the one word that continued to repeat in her mind during the rape was “Privilege”. She said she almost “felt his arms around me and I felt safe in him.” As she suffered for the Savior who had given his life for her. There’s a wonderful short video of her at https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=9VHjLgMJ_xU. It was as if God said to her “Can you thank me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?”
These women had hope, not because life was good or comfortable or easy; not because they never questioned or said “Where are you in this, Lord?”, but because they knew God was with them.
May you and I walk through a year filled with uncertainties with that same hope. God with us, the hope of glory!
Happy New Year!
*My brother, Arnold, corrected my first paragraph. Israel is not fighting Palestine but is fighting Hamas, a radical contingent of Palestinians.