The following essay by Professor William B. Lawrence, dean of SMU's Perkins School of Theology, was broadcast on KERA Public Radio on December 8, 2010.
December 9, 2010
KERA Editor's Note: When he originally submitted the following commentary in early November, William Lawrence wrote how we'd gotten past the searing heat into what he called the loveliest time of the year in North Texas. A month later that view still applies, but for other reasons.
By William B. Lawrence
Dean of Perkins School of Theology
We are in the midst of a few weeks when fear has, at least temporarily, been pushed aside. Halloween, with its artificially created and commercially generated symbols of fright, is over. Political campaigns, fueled by their million dollar commercials and their terrible threats that catastrophes will befall us if we elect the wrong persons, have now ended. Even the huge gathering in the nation's capital, which was labeled a "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," is past. Meanwhile, we have not yet reached the hectic and scary time in the holiday season when there will be too few shopping days left, too few gift ideas emerging, and too few dollars to achieve the joys that we always know are unattainable. Those frightening realizations may come in a few weeks but not yet.
For now we have a little respite from fear. And that alone may be enough to make this the loveliest time of the year.
Besides, it is also the threshold to a season when fear can be supplanted by hope. For religiously inclined persons: Muslims are marking Eid with feasting and fun; Jews are about to mark the days of Hanukkah, when the fear that there was not enough oil for light gave way to hope that was more than sufficient for human need; Christians, who share with Muslims an abiding appreciation for Mary (the Mother of Jesus), will read again that the angel told her to "fear not" before providing her with great hope.
This is the loveliest time of the year because people who adhere to religious traditions that are so often seen in conflict have in common a motivation to banish fear and replace it with hope. And even those with no religious inclinations at all have a stake in such hopes for reconciliation. Too many of the world's violent and warring disputes are ostensibly fought for religious reasons, and non-believers as well as devotees of other belief systems get caught in the crossfire. Too many children who have not had time to be nurtured within their parents' belief systems or personally to choose some alternative faith are among those who die when advocates of belief systems draw their weapons.
So before it slips away, this loveliest time of the year offers a moment for us to listen again for the voices of angels, to trust again that we have resources for more than enough light, to choose our paths not on the basis of fear but on the basis of hope. Then perhaps the lovely season will last a lot longer than even we could have planned.
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