Christman Advent WreathAs I stood looking out at the congregation as we held our candles and sang Silent Night late Saturday evening, a sadness fell onto my heart.  What will next Christmas look like?

I didn’t feel like I could sing the carols with a sense of joy or relief.  Worry about what the next years will look like clouded my ability to hope in the way I wished.

Will Christmas be drastically different in the future?  Will the shift in our political system cause less people to have jobs next year?  Will more people suffer because of a lack of health coverage?  Will our loved ones who are racial, ethnic, or religious minorities experience greater levels of oppression because the incoming administration?

And then my overly-anxious inner 10-year-old wonders: Will we all be alive?

Late in the morning on December 22, the United States president-elect tweeted the following: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”  This mirrors the sentiments of the current Russian president.

I thought the prospect of using nuclear weapons was well behind us…

I grew up at the very end of the Cold War.  Movies like Testament and The Day After still haunt my memories –  even now that I’m in my forties.  How could human beings do this to one another?  I thought to myself as a child.  Will I grow up to experience adulthood?  I don’t want to die…

During these tween years, I would read Matthew 24, which would not dissuade my fear at all.  Even the Bible predicted such calamity.

And while I eventually learned that the Bible was written in specific contexts to specific groups of people, I know that “nothing is new under the sun” (to echo the words of Ecclesiastes).  Again and again, people found their demise in wars, and even mass extermination occurred at our hands with our missiles in 1945 Japan.

Could our country massacre an entire region of people with one directive?  Will we be at the receiving end of one of these bombs?

Here we are back in a Cold War wilderness.  Here we are in wandering.  Here we are waiting to see the Christ light through the fogs of human-induced hate.

This is when we desire that the wilderness texts of the Bible give us the hope we need.  Isaiah 40:6-8 states:

All people are grass,
   their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
   when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
   surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
   but the word of our God will stand for ever. (NRSV)

Logically, I highly doubt that a nuclear war is in our future.  Yet the powers-that-be will use this to send powerful messages of fear, and that will play with the emotions in our hearts and souls.

And we sit with the wilderness Scriptures.  No matter where we are in our growing or fading, or what may come upon this, God’s comfort is with us.  God’s peace surrounds us.  Admittedly, sometimes it’s tough to see this comfort around us when our fear is so great.  So we light the Christ candle and we take that light into the world, hoping it will shine brighter than before, that nuclear winter will be a fear of the past, and that springtime resurrection will appear for us once again.

*****

The title of this post, Last Christmas, is in memory of musician George Michael who passed away on December 25, 2016.  While the 1980’s gave us terrifying movies like The Day After, the decade also provided us with enjoyable music from great artists like George Michael, Prince, and David Bowie whom we mourn this year.

*****

The Rev. Michelle L. Torigian is the Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Old Blue Rock Road in Cincinnati.  Her essay “Always a Pastor, Never the Bride” was in the RevGalBlogPals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.  Torigian blogs at www.michelletorigian.com.

*****

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