Moved by hope today

Published 12:35 am Sunday, December 25, 2016

By Rev. Les Ferguson

What does Christmas mean to me? If I had to choose one word to explain what Christmas means to me I would choose the word “hope.” All the emotions and events that move me at Christmas are encapsulated in hope.

I recognize hope in the relationships that are forged or reinforced during Christmas. The hope felt at Christmas is demonstrated in the simplicity and imagination that touches the childlike part of every person.

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These emotions are reinforced by the sense of presence, probably the greatest present we can offer at Christmas. I have found, simply by being present, all involved feel true joy amid the other emotions that may be present in the season. Sometimes our best Christmas present is not what we imagine it will be but simply that we are present.

Images that reinforce Christmas are varied and come from all aspects of my life, not just the intentionally sacred spaces I have inhabited.

One lasting image that exemplifies the sign of hope was found in my Navy career.

While deployed one Christmas season, our ship was en route to Malaga, Spain. We decided to have a party for a local orphanage, with all the trimmings: presents, punch, and cookies. But we realized we didn’t have cookie cutters in Christmas shapes.

Not to be deterred, one of our sailors made unique Christmas cookie cutters: a six-inch snowman, a five-inch candy cane, and four-inch tree, allowing us to craft literally thousands of sugar cookies.

The expectancy on the faces of the young sailors and marines as they decorated all those cookies was a sight to see; but the most moving sight was the joy on the faces of the orphans at their party with those same young men.

The joy experienced helped all of us find hope for normalcy in our fragmented situations, away from home and loved ones.

Christmas means being able to make the most of what we have.

One of the most hope-filled Christmas celebrations in my life was a mistake. There was miscommunication about who was bringing what for Christmas dinner. The host, due to unimportant circumstances, had limited pantry items and expected more to be contributed by those attending. Complicating the story are two food allergies that limit “traditional” creative fare. But with imagination a feast was created out of pasta, pesto, Italian sausage and fresh fruit.

The joy of time spent, creating a meal from what was available, sitting with loved ones and sharing our presence was a wonderful Christmas experience.

These stories remind me of the reason for the season: that God chose to come among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to be personally related to us and give us hope. On Christmas, we remember that Jesus came to share and be present with us, just as we are, just as he is.

Jesus brings real meaning to Christmas in his simplicity, love, joy and imagination. He was the foster son of Mary, an unwed mother, and Joseph, a simple carpenter.

Christmas reminds me that true hope is found in imagining a direct, joy-filled, life in relationship with our neighbors and our God.

The Rev. Les Ferguson is the rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church. Email him at