In this month’s message of inspiration, Jen Lawlor, creative arts director at Allegheny Center Alliance Church, urges Northsiders to share hope and peace with one another in 2021.

Photo courtesy of Jen Lawlor

About a week before Christmas, I was getting ready to head home from work, and I took a moment to glance out the window. It was snowing and moving toward dusk and I wanted to assess the driving situation. As the heavy snow swirled in the darkening sky, I looked out at Allegheny Commons Park. You couldn’t miss the words “hope” and “peace” illuminated in the darkness. They looked beautiful, a glowing beacon in the storm, a powerful reminder for all to see.

In retrospect, I realize that moment at the window, with the words “hope” and “peace” shining in the snowstorm, was a perfect representation for 2020.

Nobody was ready for the storm that was the novel coronavirus. As more and more people became ill, and circumstances got worse, we hunkered down and waited for the skies to clear. Unfortunately, COVID-19 lasted much longer than that snowstorm. Ten months later we are still waiting for the skies to clear – for masks to disappear, for businesses to stay open, and for some semblance of normalcy to return to our lives. We are desperately seeking that guiding light in the storm.

Jen Lawlor, creative arts director at Allegheny Center Alliance Church, urges Northsiders to share hope and peace with one another in 2021.

The Christmas season reminds us of another time when life was harsh, and the world was waiting for a beacon and God sent his own Son. John 1:4-5 states, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  

Jesus is the light in the darkness, the source of hope and peace, the beacon in every storm. But He did not come just to bless us. He also called us to bless each other: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

Northside friends, each one of us has the responsibility to love our neighbors: the neighbors we like, the neighbors we don’t like, even those we don’t know. But how do we love our neighbors when we can’t even smile at them without a mask?

Civil and human rights activist Ella Baker once said, “Give light and people will find the way.”

So, as we leave 2020 behind, let’s not forget the beautiful reminder in Allegheny Commons Park. Let us consider the ways in which we can shine the light of love on each other. And ask ourselves, “How can I share “hope” and “peace” in 2021?

Jen Lawlor is the creative arts director at Allegheny Center Alliance Church.

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