Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

By Elaine Owen, Editor ~~

Everyone views Christmas in a different way. For those who do not celebrate it, Christmas is just one of many federal holidays that offers a few vacation days away from work. Even for Christians, the day often has different meanings and feelings attached to it. Children may see Christmas only as a day in which Santa Claus brings them gifts from “wish lists” that were once prepared for Santa’s eyes only but now magically appear under the Christmas tree. For some, it is a day that will be spent alone without family or friends due to circumstances beyond their control.
This year, one word truly resonates with how I feel about this upcoming Christmas. I feel “hopeful” for a brighter future for my country. I’m optimistic that things are going to turn out all right.
You may be thinking that this is not the same person writing these words as the one who writes (the truth) about what is happening in our world. It’s not always good and it’s not always optimistic. There are so many unsettling events in our world–and the possibility of terrorist attacks could worsen both at home and abroad in the upcoming days and months.
I am hopeful because I know that “man” is not in charge. We, as Christians, must live our lives for God and not for man. We also must not live our lives in fear, but rather we must live them in faith.
How could anyone not be hopeful during this season when, as Christians, we know who gives us life and promises a future that is beyond comparison to any future that we may ever experience on this earth? It is a future that is filled with signs of His love for us. Every day, I see those signs from God in the form of miracles that only God could have arranged.
It gives me hope to know those who would give up the comfort of their warm beds and precious little time with family to provide for our homeless veterans when they are not obligated to do so but feel a moral obligation to serve others as Christ did.
Hope is important in times such as these. We live in a nation where children live homeless and suffer hunger. Climate change threatens God’s very creation. We look across the globe with concern at battles that rage in places like Syria and Afghanistan. And we fall to our knees after hearing about the shootings at Southernland Springs, Texas that left 38 dead and 21 wounded; and Las Vegas where 59 were killed and 441 wounded…and others.
In the midst of these times we find hope in the volunteers from our communities who work with homeless children. We marvel at those who spend their lives fighting for environmental protections. We give thanks for those who are teachers and first responders. We remember that blessed are the peacemakers who seek this Christmas season to end war. And we thank God for the wonderful people at Open Arms, who made a home for troubled girls and now must re-build that home.
The World Council of Churches reminds us, “Christ’s light is the lamp for our feet that shows us the way toward justice and peace. Even when our own wicks burn dimly, the Word of God withstands the darkness, faithfully bringing forth justice on our common way toward peace.”
The birth of Jesus stands as a symbol of hope for all time. In his ministry he envisioned a new world–the Kingdom of God–where the last would come first and justice would roll down like mighty waters, echoing the words of the Hebrew Prophets. Our task this Christmas is to offer prayers and sing praises to God for all the gifts we have been given but also to act on the teachings of Jesus to bring hope to people and places left in darkness.
And as 2017 comes to a close, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In my personal life, I am working to understand that suffering can sometimes make God seem far away and indifferent to our cries. Christmas reminds us that God is close to us, that he wants to walk the path of life with each of us. When worldly peace seems difficult to achieve, we can draw strength from the promise of peace in the message of the angels: peace on earth to men of good will. It is a peace the world cannot give, but one that the world cannot take away. The message of Christmas is the triumph of life, goodness, and love over death, evil, and hate. May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of His love at Christmas and always.
A reminder that the Fannin
Sentinel office will be closed between Christmas and New Year’s. Newspapers are permitted to not publish two weeks a year without penalty and this was set as our “mental health break” long before ownership changed. During this time, Jim and I will be spending time in Blue Ridge with our little dog, Shadow, who was just diagnosed with cancer. We will read a “hundred and one” press releases and all the news from Washington…so we can better serve our subscribers, our other readers, and our advertisers. Personally, I will brush up on learning to spell–and where the “n” and “m” keys reside on my keyboard.
I will share this New Year’s Prayer that was given to me: May God make your year happy. Not by shielding you from sorrows and pain, but by strengthening you to bear them as they come; not by making your path easy, but by making you strong to travel any path; not by taking hardships from you, but by taking fear from your heart; not by making your life always pleasant, but by showing you when people and their causes need you most and by making you be there to help. God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.