Advent is here and Christmas is 11 days away. Candles signifying hope, peace, joy and love are being lit each Sunday in churches across our world.

Trees are up and decorated. Presents procured and dutifully wrapped or hidden away. Music of the season both blares obnoxiously from retail store speakers and in quieter moments, soothes from the lips of children.

The world is awash in light, color, festivity and a spirit of giving unmatched throughout the rest of the year.

My house is decorated. Peace, joy and sweet memories emanate from all its corners. Soon to be joined with laughter and love as all of our children and grandchildren come home for Christmas.

There is much hope in my heart.

And, there is also much heaviness. The world I walk in is replete with sadness. Poverty abounds. Jobs are scarce. Children are cold, and hungry. Basic necessities are not always met. Children are abused. Senseless acts of violence echo through the neighborhood, destroying lives and deeply affecting the lives of children. A family struggles to stay afloat in light of outside unjust acts. A family suddenly experiences the death of their father, and provider. Another family loses their home to fire. Great reasons for despair and hopelessness abound.

Yet other families remain intact despite all odds. Families take care of one another. Children are somehow clothed and encouraged to be in school. Some willingly take in relatives, feed extra mouths, perhaps compelled by deep understanding and a fierce determination to keep each other afloat.

School staff and members of my church give generously to help those with unexpected and tragedy-inflicted need. Love seeps through us and warms hearts.

Our Lord is with us and has asked us to be with them. Not to fix life. Not to have any pretense of saving them. But simply to be with others and to share what we have.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the Gospel, the mandate of Scripture, and the call of our Lord to each of us. Yes, we have a Savior. Yes, we have a Redeemer. And though our Redeemer lives, yes, there are times that He seems very distant, uninvolved, or even uncaring.

But oh, how I am coming to see and to believe that perhaps many of those times in the lives of people all over the globe do not happen because those things are true of our God. For certainly they are not.

Rather, if our God seems distant, uninvolved, uncaring or unloving, it is because we who are God’s image bearers . . . we who are God’s tangible hands and feet in this world . . . we who are called to walk in the way Jesus walked on earth . . . we are not doing so very well.

We as individuals cannot solve any huge issue such as the grinding poverty in my city. But we as individuals can do something. We can live with less. We can give more. And we can be willing to become involved with people who desperately need our presence with them.

Emmanuel, God with us.

How can we be anything else . . . ?