Being a Messenger of Hope Inspired by Advent and Christmas

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith, Bread for the World

8And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night… 9And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord… 12And this will be a sign for you…13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”                                    Excerpts from Luke 2:8-11 RSV

Many of the 85 Bible verses about shepherds convey a pastoral image of a God who is with us and cares for us. The image of the shepherd reminds us of the modest lives of those care providers who tended, herded, and nourished within Biblical agricultural societies and their little material wealth. So the message from the angelic hosts to the shepherds tells us that Jesus came to love and care for all people, both kings and shepherds. Today, we live in a nation and world where all people—those with material wealth and those without it—are still invited to receive the message of joy, love, peace, and hope.

However for people of African descent, who experience disproportionate levels of hunger and poverty in the United States and globally, this hopeful message of a God who spoke to the shepherds can be difficult to receive. The inability of Congress to pass criminal justice reform legislation in the 114th Congress, despite bipartisan support, is disappointing. The deeply divided responses to the recent election contribute to a season that will test our resolve to be faithful to our advocacy agenda of change.

Still, African-American churches and communities must continue to live in hope. The Christmas story inspires and encourages us to remain hopeful in the face of adversity and challenge. We can also find hope in the work of Bread for the World to pass the Global Food Security Act with bipartisan support. This legislation will help alleviate hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, including many in sub-Saharan Africa. It will benefit many of the more than 795 million chronically malnourished people, 159 million of whom are children. Similar to the successful Feed the Future initiative, this bill puts in place a strategy for the U.S. government to help hungry nations develop smart, long-term agriculture programs.

In partnership with Bread for the World, we can stay on top of the work of Congress and the White House to be sure that they protect safety net programs, create opportunity by improving the economy, and invest in opportunity. While we stand up and call for change, we can also hold our democratic system accountable. We look forward to working with you as advocacy messengers of hope in 2017.

Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church Engagement at Bread for the World.


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