If ever a peaceful, hopeful Christmas were needed, this is the year. Sputtering economic recovery, devastating natural disasters and bruising political discourse left nearly everyone yearning for the restorative power of the holiday.
Then, an unimaginable incident reordered priorities in a heartbeat. A school – seemingly a refuge from all of the frustrations – instantly became a reminder of what’s important and what is not. The fiscal cliff suddenly seems like a manufactured problem compared with the loss of 20 small children. Who wouldn’t trade all of the gifts of the season to see those children’s lives restored, along with the potential they held to change the world?
For Christians, who hold sacred this holiday, it is precisely the message of Christmas that gives strength in the face of such adversity.
President Obama chose 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 in offering consolation at the interfaith service in Newtown:
For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
It’s not scripture commonly cited at Christmastime, but it’s fitting in a troubling year punctuated with a horrific ending. It’s a reminder that rewards are most often earned, not given – that better days lie ahead.
This year, the prospect of glory might seem distant, but it’s possible to bring it closer with intentional acts. The spirit of the holiday can be lifted and maintained in simple ways: A helping hand to a stressed neighbor, words of encouragement to a frustrated child, praise for a harried worker and love for a family member or friend.
Next Christmas could and should be brighter. As a nation and state, we must look for the things that unite us instead of divide us. We should look to solve the biggest challenges, aware that quick fixes and easy answers aren’t available. Tough choices and trade-offs are necessary because complex problems require complex solutions.
While a joyous Christmas might seem remote this year, a meaningful one is not. Even for those who don’t observe the holiday, its overwhelming presence gives everyone a chance to step back from the everyday routine and reflect on the promise of peace, love and hope. That’s our wish this holiday season and for many years to come.