While on travel to Williamsport the day before the general election, my eye caught sight of one rather distinct yard. Amidst the collection of election posters in yards all up and down the street, there was this one yard. What was peculiar about it? Where there might have been election posters to proclaim preferred candidates of the occupants of the house; there were only Christmas lights. While my first thought was to think how the homeowners were rushing the season, when I thought about it longer, I found a hopeful message. In the midst of what has been one of the more acrimonious campaigns on record, here was a different message. The light shines in the darkness; there was that beacon of hope even in the midst of all the ugliness of the campaigning. It seemed to be saying, “here is respite. Christ can come, even to this.”
I suppose I should have stopped to thank the owners. For here was a hopeful message: the zombie apocalypse is not coming. Christ the redeemer is coming.
My impression of this past election season has been to hear voices from many that have articulated a great deal of concern, anxiety and outright fear of the unknown that might be coming. That fear will not magically diminish with the result of the election. For, as in the case of all elections, some will get what they want, and others will not. The challenge for the winner is this: campaigns highlight differences but the post-election challenge is to heal the brokenness that the campaigning has fueled. Can that be done in the highly polarized climate in which we are living at the moment? That is the major issue that only time will be able to tell.
So I found myself thinking about how most of us can become fairly worked up over the fear of the unknown, and I also found myself thinking about the passage of the Gospel that is often appointed for Thanksgiving Day. It is that passage from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus keeps assuring his disciples “to be not anxious.” A thing that I freely acknowledge is far more easily said than done, especially in the world in which we live—a world in which a New York minute is considered to be the luxury of time.
We humans put a lot of anxiety into life; Jesus instead invites us to invest a sense of calm trustfulness in the grace of God, pointing out that while we cannot lengthen the span of our lives through worry and anxiety, we most certainly can shorten them by overindulgence in worry.
The first step in addressing the anxiety problem is to develop a sense of thanksgiving. A thankful heart always brings with it the invitation to spend time in the here and now in gratitude, rather than to dwell in the nightmarish land of what horror there might be.
So I pray that as we prepare for the coming holiday season that we do so by allowing time for thanksgiving and rejoicing, counting our blessings and remembering that it is always a right and joyful thing to give thanks.
Those ‘be not anxious verses’ are in Matthew, Chapter 6.