"Hope is a word we should never quit using." Singer/songwriter Danny Flanigan wrote and sang this lyric over and over as a theme and chorus at the opening of a Christmas Eve service I attended with my family at Covenant Community Church just two days ago.
As the children and the families gathered chaotically the commotion of the day in everyone's life and the confusion of this day in the church year was palpable. Danny’s song calmed those fears and the crowd and inspired all who were gathered. "Hope is a word we should never quit using. … It’s light at the end of a tunnel of confusion."
I witnessed a change as we were all bathed in the literal light of candles throughout the sanctuary, the glow of this song, and the illumination of the Christmas Pageant proclamation from the evening before. Attitudes began to shift and the demeanor of those who had come to welcome the Christ child into the world once again changed for the better.
Birth, not death, was in this hope, in this light, in this liturgy, in this song, in the proclamation that "Jesus Christ is Born;" undying hope, light, life.
Frances Taylor Gench, a New Testament Professor at Union-PSCE, talks about her hope for the church. She tells the story of pessimistic people of faith wondering out loud about the future of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the larger Church of Jesus Christ. She does not share their concerns because, she says, she gets to teach in a seminary regularly where she encounters gifted and dedicated persons of faith that are preparing to lead the Church in the years to come. If only, she muses, everyone were to see what she witnesses daily in the classroom, they too would join her in hope.
PC (USA) seminary professors and presidents, staff and colleagues share their stories with me that, more often than not, mirror Frances’ story. They are stories of promise, of light at the end of the tunnel, of birth in Jesus Christ … of undying love and hope that will never quit.
Rumors of doom and gloom have been, are, and probably will continue to be passed around our world about the future of the Church and/or the PC (USA). The numbers are framed as a scarcity of dollars and members, etc. Sure these may be real figures, but there is a reality in a hope that is beyond those numbers. The celebration of the incarnation of that hope is Christian reality at the center of Christmas. It is a reality that changes lives, calms fears, sends messengers to the far reaches of the earth, and inspires a response by all shepherds and wise ones, leaders and leading thinkers.
I join Danny in singing in this holy season, "Hope is a word we should never quit using. … It’s light at the end of a tunnel of confusion. … It’s a simple change of heart to spark a revolution." I hope you will listen this song and join the hopeful chorus.
Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas!
P.S. Thanks for the "Hope," Danny!