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Christmas Hope

Rejoicing in hope.”  Romans 12:12 

Christmas comes as a welcome relief for Americans who have just been brutalized by a nasty political campaign rife with incessant, shrill ads and slogans repeated ad nauseam.  We are weary with hateful speeches, spinning of facts and vicious attacks.  Partisan politics, even when one’s preferred candidate prevails, yields little peace.  It’s great to move on to Christmas, even though the yuletide music, greetings and stories have also been permanently etched into our brains.  The Christmas message finds its strength in redemptive love, not in competitive advantage.

The world needs hope.  Poet Ellen Bass wrote, “When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief…”  We are weighted down by the obesity of grief with the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, with the shock and sadness of Benghazi, with the threat of a nuclear Ahmadinejad’s Iran, with the harvest-killing monster drought of 2012, with the millions of acres charred by wildfires, and with multiple mass shootings in random sites across the country. 

The world needs hope.  When prospective mothers protruding in their third trimester check in at abortion clinics, when suicide surpasses combat deaths among military personnel, when homeowners walk away from the entirety of their life’s dreams because of  underwater mortgages, and when underage drinking has become normalized among adolescents, we cry out for hope. 

The world needs hope.  Real hope.  We do not need any more artificial hope of empty campaign promises, or of dry statistical analyses churned out by university labs in pursuit of grant money, or of endless social programs that do more to fatten and perpetuate the layers of bureaucracy than to alleviate the sufferings of the victims. 

Mankind can survive the most abominable of circumstances if a ray of hope flickers somewhere on the horizon.  A person can endure profound pain and unthinkable loss if he or she can cling to a shred of hope.  One slim shaft of hope that pierces a cancer patient’s dismal outlook can instantaneously cause a drawn face to burst into smiles.  An entire country besieged with an aggressor’s attack can erupt in joy hearing that the slightest hope of deliverance is on its way.  That’s what Christmas is all about.

The message of Christmas lives effectually on many levels.  Yes, there is the level of prophetic fulfillment, levels of doctrinal orthodoxy, of messianic joy, of typological truth.  There are the details of Bethlehem, Mary, and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds, the stable and the manger.  All of them are important.  But there is a more basic level—we may even say generic level—of simple hope.  Christmas symbolizes hope in every conceivable way.  Before the drug addict, or the alcoholic, or the prisoner, or the depressed person knows the details of the Christ child and all of the supporting proof texts, he or she needs to know that there is hope, real hope, proven hope that can that can transform their world. 

With Armageddon approaching, we Christians love to focus on judgment.  We may feel it is more meaningful to talk about the wrath of God coming down on this godless society.  There may be times for that.  But we have a much bigger job.  We are in the hope business, not the hell business! 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

Spread hope.  Speak hope into distraught, restless lives.  Be a beacon of hope to a depressed family.  Rather than a doom and gloom prophet, why not be a voice for radiance and joy?  Be the epistle of the Christmas story known and read of all men.  You can do more than celebrate Christmas—you can BE Christmas to a lost and dying soul!

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