Some of my social media friends will remember this picture. The picture shows what happens when a bale of hay breaks before its time. This particular bale was originally made to be a beautiful round roll of grass hay. As it was ejected from the baler, it began to roll down the hill. As it rolled it began to come apart. As each string broke, it became more and more unlike the original bale. Finally it lost its original shape completely and became a strewn clump of hay laying in the field. There is no clean way to just pick it up and carry it to a place where it will serve its intended purpose. Perhaps the journey of this bale has a familiar ring.
It seems that lately many lives in my circle have experienced breakage unexpectedly, catching us unawares. Marriages, once so filled with love, hope and dreams, fall apart. Jobs and careers that brought meaning and provision to our lives, suddenly end sending our worlds into a spin. This doesn’t even begin to address the pressures many, if not most, feel. Health, those of us who enjoy good health often take for granted, begins to impact our lives. Loved ones, who have for most of our lives been our companions and cheerleaders, are seeing their very lives fade into eternity. The world around us is in turmoil and the news becomes an endless stream of doom, gloom, and hopelessness. Life, like the bale of hay, has unraveled, leaving us bewildered and confused. So, is this the way it is? Are our hearts and lives to be endlessly buffeted by seemingly uncontrollable forces?
And so we begin the Advent season. It is a season with four themes, hope, joy, peace and love. It is a season leading to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Christ. Christmas, however, has become a symbol for many of buying gifts we can ill afford for people we barely know, a time for the mandatory annual gathering of dysfunctional family, a season now commencing before Thanksgiving so that retailers can make up for the financial losses accumulated up to this point in the year. The special meaning of Christmas in the celebration of the Christ child has been lost as we look through Santa’s sleigh to see what’s in it for us.
Let’s take some time this year to focus on the hope, joy, peace and love of Advent. If we are successful in this effort, perhaps we’ll be better positioned to focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Could we spread hope to the hopeless and struggling around us instead of discouragement and despair? Joy doesn’t sell news, so could we spread joy and happiness in the face of the barrage of negativity blaring at us through the media? It would be extraordinary to calm an anxious friend with words of peace and comfort in the face of death on so many levels. As we do these things, we are, in effect, loving those around us known as our neighbors.
Bringing hope for a brighter tomorrow by encouraging those who feel life is hopeless, joy in the form of a smile of friendship and understanding, peace by letting someone know they’re not walking alone, and love by embracing those who are feeling abandoned and conflicted will begin to show others what it means to love your neighbor. I want to encourage us all to begin to pick up the pieces of broken lives that have seemingly unraveled like my bale of hay.
Through this season, I’m hoping to expand on the four themes of the Advent season. It is incumbent on us all to bring light to the world around us, so these are topics worth exploring at greater length. May God bless you all and let’s celebrate the Prince of Peace by promoting peace on earth and good will to all men.