Andy Barton


By Andy Barton

At the end of the new Ridley Scott biopic “Napoleon,” the director lists the total number of French soldiers killed under Napoleon’s command. As if the three hours of 19th-century warfare were not enough to remind you of the brutality of war, Scott drives it home as a last indictment of Napolean.  The numbers are sobering, but the disregard for human life seems to be his message. 

Such is the reality of war, as we are reminded these days in the stories of Russian military leaders marching untrained soldiers across battlefields in Ukraine as fodder to overwhelm opposing forces, or the devastation and suffering on display in daily images from Gaza and in the accounts of the Hamas attacks on Oct 7. 

The juxtaposition of the film “Napoleon” playing in theaters and the battles raging in Europe and the Middle East reminds us that war persists despite any advancements by humankind. The same can be said for other modern-day cataclysms from pandemics and climate change to political division and social unrest.  They have all been around since biblical times.  It makes you wonder.  Where do we go to find hope? 

The Bible is a good place to start, since it was the sin of Adam and Eve that put humanity on this road.  It is the chronicle of hard times, detailing every imaginable example of human suffering; but it does so in telling the good news of our God and the arrival of the Messiah.

The season of Advent and Christmas, with all the rich symbols and traditions, is comprised of many things but the celebration is fundamentally about hope.  This is true for non-Christians as much as it is for devout followers of Christ.  The signs of the season, from colorful lights that brighten our longest nights to the most familiar and widely sung songs in the English language (which happen to be Christian) are ingrained in our culture.  Some feel we have lost the Christ in Christmas, but Christmas still brings hope to people of our nation and world.  It reasserts, every year, the promise of Jesus Christ for people of all faiths and no faith. 

And so, as we reckon with war, poverty, drought, and division in our current age, we can find comfort in remembering that, in Jesus Christ, we have a chance for peace and goodwill among men and women.  We also work to be the hope of Christmas for those who need it so badly.

In caring for those who struggle in our neighborhoods and streets, we carry out the ministry of hope, expressed so directly in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”

Though the struggles of humankind remain, let us be joyful this Advent season.  Let us be warmed by the lights on trees and by the light in our hearts. Let us be that light for our brothers and sisters in need.  Let us be filled with hope. Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

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