Have Yourself A Hopeful Little Christmas
Christmas. There’s no other time like it. The lights, the music, the snow, the food, the carols, the presents. For some, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For others, it’s not the “most hap, happiest season of all.“
And yet, our broken world so desperately wants those songs to be true. We want to find healing for our pain. We want to fix the brokenness. But when the holidays come around, we are confronted by the harsh reality that relationships are broken, life is painful, and opportunities have been lost.
I think it’s safe to say that 2020 didn’t go the way anybody had hoped it would. Each of us could point to something that we hoped would be different. Maybe you were hoping for a job that’s now out of reach. Maybe you were hoping to reopen your business. Maybe you were hoping certain relationships would be restored only to find it has been further strained. Maybe you were hoping to go back to school. Maybe you were hoping to spend more time with your aging parents but weren’t able to.
Yes, 2020 has not gone the way any of us had hoped.
But you know what? I think we would have thought the same thing if we had witnessed the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to create those same warm feelings I had as a boy for my kids around Christmas time — around the nativity scene with the shepherds and Wise Men. I want my kids to have positive emotions when it comes to Jesus’ birth, because it is a celebration.
But the older we get — the more we start “adulting” — the more we realize the Christmas Story is a story of Hope set against a backdrop of great tragedy. One honest look at the first Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 reminds us that Jesus came into a world very much like our own.
Tyrants ruled. Babies were murdered by order of the king. Families fled their homes because of oppression. Citizens were overtaxed. A foreign king was interfering with the daily life of God’s people. You could say that was a pretty bad year for the people of God. Actually, it had been a pretty bad 400 years!
Yet in the midst of all of this, God’s people were waiting for a person. But catch this: they were also waiting for their circumstances to change. Their hope wasn’t in the Person but how that Person would change their circumstances. They were hoping this Messiah would throw off Roman oppression. They were hoping He would set them free from tyrants. They were hoping He would restore their nation to greatness. They were hoping for a child but they were really hoping for a change in circumstances.
So when this Messiah didn’t fit their idea of hope-fulfillment, they missed Him. They despised Him. And eventually, they murdered Him because their hope was misplaced.
But what the first Christmas Story teaches us, as well as the entirety of Scripture, is that biblical hope isn’t a change in circumstance. Biblical hope is waiting for God to show up in the midst of our mess. Hope is waiting for God to show up in our chaos. Hope is waiting for God to show up in our brokenness. It is the presence of God that is our hope, not the absence of sorrow and struggle. If our hope is in better circumstances, we may spend our entire life searching for it and miss the power of God’s presence right in the middle of our life.
How about you? What are you hoping for? Is your hope in Him or in a change of circumstance? Is your hope in His plan or yours?
Read the story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, and in it, you will see this:
- God has a plan, and it’s larger than what we can see right now (think of God taking on human flesh so that He could die in that flesh to restore all of creation)
- The impossible can happen (think of the virgin birth)
- Our hope rests on God invading our life (think of Simeon, the righteous and devout man who had waited his entire life to see baby Jesus)
- Our response? To say “yes” to God’s plan, no matter how difficult life may be (think of Joseph and Mary)
So do this this Christmas: shift the focus of your hope. Absolutely tell God you would love a change of circumstance (he hears every prayer). But more importantly, tell Him you want your focus back on Him. Tell Him you want to listen and obey Him, even if He is leading you into circumstances that feel impossible.
And have yourself a Hopeful little Christmas this year.