Ray of Hope in Depths of Winter

by PASTOR MIKE CONKLIN
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

Here we are, in the middle of a January that will not have the traditional (I think it’s traditional) January thaw. I heard that this is the first time in 24 years that this has happened.

I like January thaws. They give us a ray of hope in the deepest part of winter, an indicator that it will not always be cold, snowy and all brown and white. The days seemed more profoundly dismal to me because, as you might guess, I am not a winter sports person. Golf balls simply disappear in four feet of snow.

And yet it hasn’t all been darkness, gloom and cold. There were days, deeply cold days, that were marked by bright, clear, blue skies and bright sunshine all day long. It was all that I needed to clear the cobwebs and make the day “right.” In truth, that is all that we really need in those winter times in our lives, too – just a ray of hope in the winter’s chill.

The world and the society we live in is often marked by confusion, restlessness, unease and despair. Yet all it takes is a ray of hope in the midst of it, and our world is transformed. We often feel like the character in John Updike’s Pigeon Feathers: “He detested the apparatus of piety. Fusty churches, creaking hymns, ugly Sunday-school teachers and their stupid leaflets – he hated everything about them, but the promise they held out.”

In the depths of this winter, with unemployment at record highs, with people struggling just to make it through the cold times, with the world in turmoil, we find that we are a people captured by more than a ray of hope. There is a sunburst of promise and hope in the fact that God has put us here, in this place, at this time – together. As faith communities, we are too often divided along denomination and cultural lines that have more meaning for us than they do for God. But in God’s economy and God’s geography, we are bound together by a common hope, a ray of sunshine in the dark winter: “So faith, hope and love abide, these three,” writes Paul, “but the greatest of these is love.”

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