Q: Many consider this to be the season of peace and hope. Reflecting on 2012, what has given you peace? What are your hopes for the coming year?
Peace and hope are rather difficult concepts to ponder in light of this past week's horrific events at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn. As a human being, my heart aches for the victims and their families who have had to endure such unfathomable pain. As a father of young children, I am left feeling shattered and vulnerable.
I pray that all those devastated families and their friends — and indeed, that our entire nation — will find solace in the year ahead. May our merciful God give those affected the strength necessary to rebuild their broken lives. May the precious memory of all those beautiful souls massacred in Newtown never be forgotten. And may this event serve as a source of positive inspiration to do good and change the world for the better.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center
The peace I felt last year and my hopes for the coming year are all rooted in Jesus Christ. In a struggling economy and a slow climb out of recession I along with all believers have been comforted by the truth that “God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). We have peace in our hearts in spite of personal shortcomings because “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). One of my favorite peace-giving verses is Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.” I claim this when circumstances get overwhelming.
My immediate hopes for this year are that the Lord will lead my church and me into greater, people-helping outreach into Burbank. My hope is for an increased knowledge of the Lord's ways applied in our lives. My hope is for greater confidence in God's power and goodness expressed in us and through us. And my ultimate hope is the personal return of Jesus Christ. In light of the worldwide struggles of the past years, and especially the tragic events of this last week, he is our best and only hope.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
During the past year many sad events have occurred in our country and the world, most recently the tragic killings of 20 innocent, young children and seven adults in Newtown, Conn. There are no words that can truly erase the heartache of those who have lost loved ones in that horrific event. And I certainly hold them in my heart.
But there are some things that I believe can help to bring us some peace in the face of even the deepest sorrows — at least they have helped me. I am convinced that we must let our tears flow in sorrow and release for the losses that we face. And we can reach out to give and receive comfort and support from our family and friends. In addition, those of us who are part of a religious congregation or have a spiritual practice can find peace in the assurances they bring through prayer and the feelings of love and consolation in community. And, as strange as it may seem, even finding humor in some small event can bring us peace, at least temporarily.
So my hope for the new year is that we will find ways to face the sorrows that will no doubt enter our lives in 2013. May we shed tears and be comforted by those who love us. May we reach out with love and care to others who are grieving. And may our religious beliefs, clergy and congregations provide us with the support we need to get through the pain and find renewed joy in our lives.
Blessings and hope in 2013!
Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford