by Tony Nester

Light for the Shadowed
Tony Nester
Luke 1:68-79

Some of you might recognize the name of Mattie Stepanek. Sick since his birth, Mattie was confined to a wheelchair and required the use of a ventilator to help him breathe. His body had been attacked by an aggressive from of muscular dystrophy.

Mattie's witnessed the deaths of his older brothers. Stevie and Jamie, and his sister, Katie, who each died from forms of the disease.

Mattie's mother, Jeni, has a form of muscular dystrophy herself, although it has progressed much more gradually in her body than in Mattie's.

Before Mattie died a few years ago, and when he was only 12 years old, he published five books of poetry, some of which were listed on the New York Times list of best-sellers.

I first heard one of Mattie's poems when I attended a church leaders' conference north of Minneapolis. It was called "I Need a Hope".

Listen for a moment to Mattie:

I need a hope ... a new hope.
A hope that reaches for the stars, and
That does not end in violence or war.
A hope that makes peace on our earth, and
That does not create evil in the world.
A hope that finds curses for all diseases, and
That does not make people hurt,
In their bodies, in their hearts,
Or most of all, in their spirits.
I need a hope ... a new hope,
A hope that inspires me to live, and
To make all these things happen,
So that the whole world can have
A new hope too. [1]

Mattie speaks for us all. We need a hope.
What Mattie yearned for in his wheelchair was a hope that hope that could withstand the awful realities of our world -- pain, suffering, disease, war, and death. He wanted a hope that could survive the darkness of our world.

It was of such a hope that Zechariah spoke when he witnessed the birth of his son whom we call John the Baptist.

Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, had been childless and troubled by their barrenness.

When John was born Zechariah believed that it was a birth given ...

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