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Hope is the Heart of Christmas

“After 13 hours, it finally feels like Christmas!” exclaimed one of my granddaughters.  Her younger sister with a big smile tells me that decorating the tree and our home is the best part of Christmas.  Having my grandchildren come over to help decorate the tree, set up the Christmas village and help to prepare for Christmas dinner has been a long-standing tradition in our home.  A tradition that is held deeply and fondly in my heart.  However, Christmas is more than an occasion to decorate; more than a family feast; more than a holiday from work and school; more than giving and receiving gifts from one another.  Christmas is remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Son of God; remembering and celebrating the purpose of His birth; remembering and celebrating His imminent return to earth.  Christmas is preparing our hearts, minds, souls, and spirits to focus on Jesus Christ and His will for our lives.  Amid the decorations, food, laughter and love, Christmas is keeping our eyes on the heart of Christmas, that is Jesus Christ.

As we read the familiar Bible story of the birth of Jesus, we remember the journey of Mary and Joseph as they faithfully followed the path God has set before them.  When the time came for Mary to give birth to Jesus, they traveled to Bethlehem for a census. The census meant the town was very busy and there were no rooms available for Mary and Joseph.

Our hope and our joy are anchored in the person, presence and promise of Almighty God. 

This humble birthplace was probably not in the hearts or minds of those who held to the ancient prophecies about the Messiah!  Even though every detail of his birth was just as the prophecies declared, many missed this miracle because their hope was misplaced.  Only those who were watching and waiting, heard God’s voice of declaration and followed His direction to find Jesus. 

The birth and life of Jesus is good news.  He was given the name Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matt 1:23). The Gospels, reveal that Jesus experienced persecution, loneliness, grief, hunger, anger as well as love and kindness. He came into the world to experience life as a human -- to live among people, to enjoy the journey as well as understand the struggles.  His life shows us how to celebrate the good times and how to overcome the challenges of life.  Knowing that God is with us, provides the hope and assurance we are not alone no matter how we are feeling or how hard or hopeless our situation seems.  Our hope and our joy are anchored in the person, presence and promise of Almighty God.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10) is such an encouraging message.  It is one of the most well-known Bible verses about Christmas.  It is a message of joy from the heart of God and is for all people. 

Let us find ways, even amid our own suffering, to be the hope He has called us to be.

This message from the heart of God comes to the people who loved God but were steeped in legalism, rules, laws, and religious systems that led to bondage. The baby in a manger comes in humanity, humility, and hope. Many failed to see the hope because of the humanity and the humble setting.  They were expecting a conquering king, a military force, a political power.  This baby was a carpenter’s son, from a small town and a poor family. They were hoping for physical freedom from political domination; they weren’t looking for spiritual freedom. 

Our Heavenly Father reveals hope in a baby in a manger. According to Colossians, the hope of Christ is now found in those who follow Jesus. Colossians 1:27 God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory. (NCV) Prophecy said that Jesus' name would bring hope to the nations. So, we can conclude that if the world is going to find hope, then they will find it only if that hope is on display by those of us who are holding it. 

Like Jesus’ day, we are not living in perfect surroundings. Jesus taught that in hurt, suffering, and injustice, there is hope. God has chosen to continuously reveal Himself in humanity. There are many opportunities to bring hope to others, especially at Christmas.  Let us find ways, even amid our own suffering, to be the hope He has called us to be. Christmas is remembering, preparing, and celebrating that God is with us. Let us rejoice and be glad; let us embody hope for others as we journey well together.

Photo by Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash

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