This Sunday many around the world will celebrate new birth, renewal and Easter.
More than anytime of the year, this is the time of renewed hope, something we can all use. Sometimes that hope comes in an expected form. Just last week I heard a song I’ve heard hundreds of times since it was released in 1968, but it resonated differently for me this time around. It’s called If I Can Dream.
The year the song was released was one of turmoil in the United States and across the world. Two proponents of peace, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam War was raging, there were riots in Washington, D.C. People didn’t trust authority or anyone on the “other” side of the political divide. Culturally, to some, the world was being turned upside down.
In December of 1968, singer Elvis Presley had a “comeback” special and the song that ended the show was If I Can Dream, a message song I am sure was inspired by the events of that year. That song, or maybe that performance, still makes me tingle and helps put things in perspective.
Here’s a few versus:
There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true . . .
There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear . . .
. . . We’re trapped in a world, That’s troubled with pain . . .
But as long as a man, Has the strength to dream, He can redeem his soul and fly . . .
If you get the chance and want to be moved inside, find a version of the song and take a listen.
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And, then while writing our weekly feature, A Look Back, for the Oxford Leader, I found this front page piece from 100 years ago.
“The meaning of Easter and its message of joy, the revival of hope and the buoyant renewal of our aspiration come to an old and tired world this morning and pervade our lives even as the springtide floods and fills the meadows with her everlasting miracle.
“By an irresistible human impulse, we seek out our finest and most fashionable raiment, and that impulse is parallel to the natural processes in the world about us. If the earth can put off her drab habiliments of winter and forget the somber, sunless hours, so can the children of earth. In every life today there may be a resurrection from the dead. In every life old things may be discarded. He has not caught the spirit of the festal celebration who is not stirred to a renewal and is not moved to forsake the darkness and give welcome to the light.
“It is more than a church festival. Believer and unbeliever together share the influences of the day. In each of us, whatever creed we formally profess, there dwells the feeling that the day betokens. It is the assurance that life is worth the living and that love can never lose its own. We stand today not at the brink of a tomb but on the threshold of this eternal life and of this love immortal.”
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I admit I had to look up the meaning of some of the words I just shared, but I still got the gist. And, I felt a little better. Hope was stirring inside me. (Raiment means clothing; habiliments means clothing; and betokens means to be a sign of, or indicate. I reckon you learn new stuff every day!)
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And, the final round of words to have come to me — even without me seeking them out – came from my Uncle Jim McDonald. Out of the blue he shared a photo of a young Pope John Paul 2, probably when he was the young priest, maybe going by his given name of Karol Jozef Wojtyla. On this old black and white photo were a mere 21 words. Here they are: “I plead with you – never, ever give up on Hope. Never doubt, never tire and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”
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Easter is a time of renewal and of hope. Today, I wish you a happy Easter and as much hope as you can handle.
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