I started listening to Christmas music several days ago and I’m not even sorry.
In the interest of full disclosure, my husband and I have also watched FOUR Hallmark Christmas movies so far, and Thanksgiving is still several days away. And to let you know how deeply uncool we are, we have watched said Hallmark Christmas movies in our recently purchased matching recliners. Apparently, we have just given up and decided to embrace our status as little old lady and little old man. Soon we will be headed out for our 5:30 dinner reservations in our coordinating cardigans and comfortable shoes.
Frankly, giving up on pretending to be cool is one of the many, many reasons I love this time of year. At heart, I am a hopeless romantic and a cockeyed optimist, despite living in a world that encourages neither. Detached suspicion is much more fashionable. But skeptics and cynics don’t adorn their cars with reindeer antlers for a month every year, so for now, I get to lay down disillusionment and doubt at least until the Christmas decorations are put away and the Hallmark movies are over.
Cynicism makes my soul weary. Or perhaps I should say, the battle against cynicism makes me weary. I’m tired of cynicism in our world and, more specifically, cynicism in myself. As I have written before, both here and in my book, I sometimes find it difficult not to fall prey to the easy surrender of cynicism, especially in the current climate of hate, prejudice, and violence. And it makes me mad, because I think cynicism is lazy and lets us off the hook.
Thankfully, I read a scripture this morning that reminded me that hope, not cynicism, is the space where I prefer to live, perhaps even in January when my self-imposed Christmas season reprieve from the cynicism battle is over. Although the scripture was familiar, the translation I read this morning was new. Since the recent death of my favorite pastor/ writer Eugene Peterson, I find myself drawn more and more often to his beautiful translation The Message in my daily readings. Today, I found this treasure:
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! Romans 15:13 (MSG) Click To Tweet
Don’t you just love that? The phrase that struck me to my core is “the God of green hope.” The image that came immediately to mind was my abandoned, scruffy flower beds in early spring and the delight of finding a tender, green shoot pushing through the hard soil reminding me that winter is almost over. Just like the Christmas spirit breaking out in a world overrun by anger, hurt and despair, the God of green hope reminds us that all is not lost and perhaps there is reason to keep fighting for joy and justice.
Today, these are three of the ways the God of green hope is inspiring me to keep showing up:
The God of green hope is PERSONAL
God meets us right where we are, whether we have a deep, abiding, raging river of faith or a tiny trickle of belief mixed with doubt. For some of us, God speaks through a momentary knowing of the next step on the path, or a sense that we have somehow been seen and heard by Someone we can’t see or hear. God speaks in peace when peace doesn’t make sense, hope when all seems hopeless, joy despite the pain. God relentlessly pursues relationship and connection with us and through us. Emmanuel, God with us.
As an extrovert, I find I notice God’s presence most through moments of connection with other people. Strangely, sometimes the most powerful “God moments” come from interactions with strangers, our connection only making sense in the context of Spirit rather than history. On election day, I handed out sample ballots for three hours in the rain and the best word I can use to describe my experience is holy. As I looked each stranger in the eyes and thanked them for making the trip out to vote, I experienced community: a sense that we were all in this together, a reassurance that God was in charge, a steady drumbeat of all will be well. The God of green hope met me there and reminded me that Us vs.Them is a lie: in that moment, God knew the exact message I needed to hear in the exact way I needed to hear it.
The God of green hope is CREATIVE
Green is the color of new life and growth. God as Creator is constantly giving birth to something never seen before. And because we are created in the image of God, Imago Dei, we too are capable of creativity, innovation and imagination. Part of what I love most about coaching is the opportunity to partner with my brilliant clients and God in helping my clients create something new in their life: a different way of looking at things, a more expansive view of themselves, a plan to explore a path they’ve never taken before, or a more meaningful way of serving the world. When I remember God expects and encourages me to grow, learn and change, I begin to turn down the volume on the voice of my inner critic and celebrate being a beginner. Transformation is possible. I am not stuck. Even when things are a temporarily a mess, the God of green hope is filling me up with possibility, promise and purpose.
The God of green hope is GENEROUS
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the sheer exuberant excess of Christmas. The more lights, sparkle and color, the better. Go big or go home. Despite the occasional bah humbug, I find people are often kinder, more loving and more generous during the holidays. A bit more willing to extend grace or offer mercy. The real world looks a tiny bit more like the Hallmark movies we love to watch.
Our capacity for generosity is another example of the image of God within us. Our generous, over-the-top, abundant, extravagant Abba Father pours His hope, love, joy, peace, grace and mercy into us and we, in turn, have the privilege and responsibility of allowing it to overflow into the world. The supply is limitless, there is no lack or scarcity when it comes to the wisdom, power and goodness of God. If we keep showing up and following God’s lead, this spirit of generosity is contagious, overflowing, life-giving as we CHOOSE to spread generosity in small and big ways, perhaps even in places of pain, hurt and conflict. Being a person of generosity is as important as doing acts of generosity.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am grateful you choose to join me here in this space. I wish each of you a personal encounter with the creative and generous God of green hope. Spread it around, pour it out, let it overflow! Tell me in the comments: which one is your favorite attribute of our God of hope: personal, creative or generous?
Tara Ruszkowski says
You’re right that cynicism is lazy! I’m going to take on the challenge of “cockeyed optimism!” Love it!