Season of Hope

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night divine!

I have to say, the Christmas celebrations have been a little on the subdued side this year. While it was lots of fun helping the girls put up decorations at the shelter, the warm weather and the lack of carols has left me a little surprised that Christmas will be here Wednesday.

And despite the fact that the only Christmas carol I’ve heard this year is “Jingle Bells” in Spanish, I’ve had the verse written above from “O, Holy Night” stuck in my head for most of the past week. I’ve always liked that song, but this year it’s taking on a new meaning.

I think part of that is because “the weary world” hasn’t been an abstract idea connected to people who lived a long time ago this Christmas. During these last few months, I’ve seen, and met, worked with and loved the people waiting for something better. I’ve joined them in that waiting and hoping that life tomorrow might be a little better than it was today.

Here in Peru, there is a big emphasis on the “Nino Dios” (baby God). Churches have signs up depicting the baby Jesus and inviting parishioners to invite Nino Dios into their hearts and homes this year. One of the few Christmas traditions here is to set out a nativity set in early December, but without the Jesus figurine. Then, on Christmas Eve, he is placed in his manger, to symbolize that the Christ child has come.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last two months surrounded by kids, maybe it’s because one of the little boys living at the shelter with his sixteen year old mom has been stealing my heart since getting here in November, but the birth of a child, albeit in humble surroundings to parents not entirely sure what the future will hold for their family is one I cherish a little more fully this year.

Not all children will grow up loved. Not all of them will go to school, or have parents or other loving adults in their lives to encourage them along the way. They might suffer in a way no child should, and then be asked to be brave in a way most adults couldn’t muster. But, that doesn’t mean that’s all their lives will be. It might not be a beautiful life. They might grow up to be adults living in poverty, with the odds stacked against their families as well. But, in this season of hope, I hope that it is a little better. I hope that somehow their futures are different. I hope that people who have a chance to help them along the way take advantage of that chance.

Wherever Christmas finds you this year, be it in a small town in Peru or under the Christmas tree with your family, I hope it is a day of hope for you and for those you love.

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