Crystal Conover decorates her front yard in Layton, Utah, every Halloween. Life-size skeletons and creepy clowns are on display while zombies climb out of grassy holes.
She does this because Halloween was her son Jayden’s favorite holiday. He was thirteen years old when he was hit by a car while trick-or-treating in 2011 and died. She hands out glow sticks each year to help children light their way in the dark and stay safe from cars.
However, 2020 has been especially difficult for Crystal, with expensive storm damage to her home and the challenges of the pandemic. She told her neighbors that she was not up to decorating this year. So they did the job for her.
They not only decorated Crystal’s home and yard, but they also decked out their homes in memory of Jayden. They told her, “You’ve given a whole new meaning to Halloween—it’s not just about the candy, it’s about keeping kids safe.” One added, “Halloween is an emotional time for Crystal. But what she’s been doing every year is a good thing.”
The full moon will be a “blue moon”
Tomorrow will be a Halloween unlike any other in living memory.
The holiday will be unusual in part because a full moon will be visible across the entire US on Halloween night for the first time since 1944. This will also be a rare “blue moon” (a second full moon in a single month). Parents are looking for safe options for their kids to trick-or-treat and for alternatives during the pandemic.
But when the holiday is over, our larger fears will remain.
A man shouting “Allahu Akbar” killed three people yesterday at a church in Nice, France. A new wave of lockdowns and business closings swept across Germany, France, and other places in Europe this week in response to surging coronavirus infections.
The US reported a record five hundred thousand new cases of COVID-19 in the past week. The virus is now reaching areas previously untouched during the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked this week when he expects the FDA to greenlight use of the first coronavirus vaccines. “Could be January, could be later. We don’t know,” he said. Some scientists believe we will not see widespread vaccination until next spring at the earliest.
In other news, several police officers were injured in Washington, DC, as protests continue over the death of a twenty-year-old Black man named Karon Hylton. More than ninety people have been arrested and about fifty officers have been injured in Philadelphia in clashes with protesters and vandals following the death of Walter Wallace, Jr.
Experts are even telling us that Daylight Saving Time, which ends on Sunday, is bad for our health. Switching time twice a year impacts our physiology, they say. They recommend adopting a permanent standard time to align our natural circadian clock and minimize safety and health risks.
Six steps to hope
The Wall Street Journal published an article this week titled, “Finding Hope When Everything Feels Hopeless.” The writer suggests these steps:
- Define areas where we need hope.
- Read history to discover ways people have overcome challenges in the past.
- Imagine our preferred future and identify steps to make it happen.
- Take small steps by setting one goal for the week.
- Use hopeful language.
- Share our goals and hope with others.
These are obviously helpful suggestions. Here’s the bad news: humans cannot change human nature. Here’s the good news: Jesus can.
Jesus turned a fearful fisherman into the courageous preacher of Pentecost. He transformed a persecutor of Christians into the greatest missionary and theologian in Christian history. He brought hope to an exiled apostle on Patmos. He can bring hope to your heart today.
The problem is, many Christians do not experience Jesus as personally as we should. Many are Christians in the same sense they could be Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus—believing in God or the gods, affirming a set of beliefs, practicing religious routines, and assuming their faith will produce good results in their lives. But Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus do not expect to experience a living, life-changing, personal Lord.
What makes Christianity different is Christ.
How to find “joy that is inexpressible”
Jesus is “a cornerstone chosen and precious” (1 Peter 2:6). “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:19 NIV) and has “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
As a result, the key to hope in hard places is knowing Jesus personally. Paul testified: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:7–9).
When we experience Jesus personally and intimately, it will be said of us, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
How can Jesus help you find hope today?
Following the steps suggested in the Wall Street Journal article, define the place where you most need hope. Remember ways Jesus has helped you in the past. Ask him to show you the next steps into his best future for you, then begin where you are. Determine to trust him for the hope you need and to share his hope with others.
John Calvin defined hope as “nothing else but the constancy of faith.”
Do you have the hope you need today?
NOTE: This is the last note you’ll see from me regarding the release of our newest book, Our Christmas Stories: 26 Reflections to Enrich Your Christmas Season. Written and compiled by Janet Denison, my wife, this year’s Advent devotional will inspire and encourage you during a Christmas that may be very different from years past. Please request your copy of Our Christmas Stories today to ensure you receive it in time to begin its daily readings on December 1.