Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the Hope of Christmas

This time of year there is a huge emphasis on being “merry and bright.” In church the atmosphere is one of celebration, of glitz and light and joyful music, of triumph. Merriment and pageantry, festivity abounds.  And so it should!  We are celebrating God come to earth, the culmination of a promise given at the beginning of time.  The tree and the lights and the music and dance and drama and gifts have become part of the celebration, to the point of extravagance—and again, I am not finding fault, after all, how extravagant is it for the God of eternity, the Creator of the universe, to join his creatures for the sole purpose of death and resurrection and redemption?

My thoughts are simply this; to those who are bent and weary with burdens that simply won’t let up, those for whom grief and pain are constant companions, those who are quite simply, spent. The thought of needing to put on a fa├žade of “merry and bright” can be overwhelming.  For them, the expectation of festivity is not a preparation for joyful ceremony, but rather one more task on hearts already so very taxed.  May I say that the degree of celebration is not a marker as to how much you love Jesus and appreciate the gift of his coming to earth?

I submit that it is every bit as worshipful, every bit as appropriate and genuine to lay aside some of the frolic and simply dwell on the Hope.  Jesus birth did not signal the prompt end of oppression. His coming did not bring immediate ease, the suffering of Israel did not cease.  In fact there were many more long years of war and turmoil, of persecution and tumult and being scattered. 

Jesus’ birth was the declaration of Hope.  Hope that in the midst of suffering God had not forgotten or abandoned.  Hope that God was not merely enthroned on high, but was present, he was now, he was sharing the pain, the hurt, the grief.  Jesus’ coming meant that there was Hope that the current circumstance was not all there is, the promise still stood. 

That promise stands today. He remembers the frailty of humanity. He knows, not simply as one who has seen, but as one who has borne, the fragility of our spirit and emotion.  And he does not merely remember!  He does not share our burden as one who can only sympathize.  Christ Jesus is unique in that he not only knows our infirmity, he has the power to carry us through it.  This is the Hope of Christmas. 


I invite you to lay aside the guilt of “not doing enough for Christmas” and focus on the Hope. The Hope that although suffering may not cease immediately, that you are not left alone in it. The Hope that though the burden is so very great, you are not alone in carrying it.  The promise that although your Christmas may not be filled with lights and pageantry and spectacle, your Hope is just as real; for does not a candle shine most brightly in the darkness?