/ Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Earlier this month, on the first Sunday of Advent, we lit the first advent candle at church, celebrating the Hope we have in the coming of the Christ child called Immanuel, which means God with us.
In Canada today, people are much the same as the people living in the land of Israel when Jesus Christ was born.
Of course, the people back then didn't have clean running water pouring out of taps in the houses or cell phones glued to their hands. But, just like us, they were all trying to get through another day, to make enough to pay their bills, dealing with family issues, health issues, relationship issues.
In those days, a few people were waiting in anticipation for the long-ago promised Messiah, who would come and rescue their nation from the Romans, the most recent in a long line of oppressors.
I imagine the average person was just trying to get on with life and had given up on prophecies that had remained unfulfilled for so many centuries. They might attend the occasional religious festival or participate in some nice traditions, much the same as people today put up a Christmas tree or perhaps go to a Christmas Eve service, but they were not looking for their world to be radically changed.
The wonderful thing is that the world was radically changed.
The promises spoken by prophets hundreds, even thousands of years before, did come true, and for two thousand years since then, people have continued to commemorate the event.
God had a plan and placed a marker in time that people could look forward to or back at, declaring His love and His plan to save the world. All of history hinges on the day that Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
It can be a day of transformation for anyone even now.
A Christmas Memory
I have a very distinct memory from a Christmas many years ago. Sitting in the warm, candlelit glow of a Christmas Eve service with our two youngest children beside me on the pew, one in my left arm and the other in my right.
They had no idea of the turmoil and stress going on in my life. The exhaustion and uncertainty I felt and the growing darkness of seeing no way forward. All they knew was I was finally home. I was there with them. Tomorrow was Christmas day!
For me, it was as if time stood still and at that moment, there was hope.
What more did I need? They loved me, and more importantly, God loved us all enough to come into our world, a helpless child, the same as any of us, yet so much more. So, I could have hope that His love was all we really needed.
The darkness was outside, and I would have to go out into it again, but for now, it was enough to be together singing “Silent Night.”
The Hope of Christmas
I am so grateful for Christmas, for The Hope of Christmas.
Not the sugar-coated, Hallmark movie kind of Christmas, where everything turns out okay in the end.
Not the presents and candy canes and tinsel.
Not even all the messaging about love and giving and togetherness.
The real Hope of Christmas is not dependent on circumstances. It doesn’t require us to be all “put together,” wearing the perfect clothes while serving the perfect meal to a perfect family and friends.
The prophets spoke of the coming Messiah yet died long before ever seeing any proof.
The wise men and the shepherds came to worship the newborn King, yet their nation’s capital was destroyed within 70 years, and all its inhabitants scattered throughout the nations of the world.
Still, we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today. How can this be? Why did people continue to have hope and believe?
Their Hope was not found in this world. Not in governments or leaders or fortunes or strongholds.
They knew the words of Psalm 33:18, written almost 900 years before Jesus.
“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.”
And they found comfort in Psalms 42:5
"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior, and my God."
After Jesus had lived with them, gone to the cross, and rose again from the dead, they understood those Psalms in a new light, now they were…
"Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" ( Titus 2:13)
Hope Has a Name
I am grateful for Christmas as a beacon in the night. A signpost on life's journey. An anchor throughout the ages, reminding all who take a moment, there is hope in spite of all that is broken and wrong with our world.
Hope in the face of the impossible.
Hope for something unseen, unfathomable, yet as real and necessary as our next breath.
Our Hope has a name. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us.
*This article was originally published December 2019, and has been republished with permission.
When Philip Cox was a kid, he wanted to be a doctor and then an architect and then a Rock Star! After many years working in the tech sector, Phil turned his knowledge and expertise towards helping the team at Outreach Canada harness the latest and most useful technologies as they serve the church in Canada and beyond. Phil is the Director of Technology Services at Outreach Canada.