THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS
We need hope. We all have a sense deep down that things aren’t as they should be. Not everything is right and good. We typically learn this early on when we’re kids. Someone takes your toy, pushes you, calls you a name, or punishes you for something you didn’t do, and we cry out, “That’s not right!” “That’s not fair!”
As we get older that sense of wrongness only intensifies. We realize something is wrong with this world; that life is short, life is hard, evil too often seems to win, and good too often seems to lose. We realize there is something wrong with other people; that too often people are cruel, violent, hateful, and all too willing to oppress or oppose us for almost any reason you can imagine. We live in a world where you can be killed just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, because someone wants the shoes you’re wearing, the purse you’re holding, or because you believe and live differently than someone else.
If we’re really paying attention to life, we come to realize that there’s not just something wrong with the world and with other people, but there is something wrong with us too. We don’t always love other people like we should or even like we want to and we’re not always happy or satisfied even when we have good things. Too often we are the cruel, violent, and hateful ones.
So what do we do? Some people look at the brokenness of our world and tell us to embrace the despair and darkness. Get all the happiness out of life that you can, any way that you can, and live for yourself. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die. Most of us can’t live like that for very long (though sometimes we’re tempted to try). We know deep down that while the world may be broken, it shouldn’t be and that it isn’t right that things are this way.
Others of us just don’t even think about the brokenness. We focus only on making it through each day. We just need to make enough money to live and maybe have a little fun on the weekends. We ignore the brokenness; this is just the way things are. We deal with it.
Realizing we can’t embrace it and shouldn’t ignore it, others of us try to do our best to fix what’s wrong. We devote our lives to helping others or our world in some small way. To raising families and working jobs that might make some small difference. This is much better than just despairing or ignoring, but this too doesn’t really satisfy. We never end up making the difference we really want to make. The task is too big, our efforts too small.
We can’t fix our world, we can’t fix other people, and we can’t fix ourselves. But this doesn’t mean there is no hope. Why is hope more than wishful thinking? Where does true hope come from? There is someone who can make things right. There is someone who did everything necessary to make things right. There is someone who will make things right. That is the entire hope of Christmas.
Have you ever seen the electronic displays that count down the days towards Christmas? I used to think that those kinds of displays were corny and clichéd. Christmas will get here when it gets here! Every year I start to appreciate them a little more, however. When you look past the commercialism these countdowns are often associated with, they are countdowns to the birthday of our King. They are reminders that we are to watch, wait, and anticipate what God has done about our broken world and our broken selves. Reminders that we don’t have to despair or ignore. Reminders that our lives are not in vain. There is hope!
God has sent someone to do something about all of this. He has sent a Savior and a King. He has sent his Son, Jesus Christ. When we bow down before him, when we follow him, when he is our hope, we are transformed. We also get to be a part of what God is doing to transform and save this world. That is the promise and purpose of Advent. That is why we take time over these next few weeks to prepare for Christmas. Our King has come, and his kingdom is coming.