This Christmas I see much of the usual—frantic shoppers, gridlocked traffic, and pedestrians who seem to forget that crosswalks exist for a reason. But there’s something missing this year. As I look above the mask, into the eyes of the people around me, I can’t help but notice the absence of hope.
It’s totally understandable. What the pandemic didn’t steal, the tumultuous election and racial unrest did. Whatever fragments of hope escaped these powerful forces seems to have been sucked into the invisible vacuum of economic uncertainty. What a contrast between our world now and the momentous night the angels of heaven screamed out
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”—Luke 2:14 NKJV
But, although altogether true, the angels’ proclamation didn’t exactly come at a time of global tranquility. More than 2,000 years have sped by since that night in Bethlehem but much has remained unchanged. Then as now, the world was caught in the throes of political uncertainty as Caesar Augustus redefined his powers and the Roman empire underwent dramatic change.
Rapidly changing political alliances, internal feuding among liberal and conservative Jewish religious groups and more were all part of the maelstrom into which the Son of God was born.
I’m sure this sounds familiar.
In the midst of this chaos, why then would the heavenly messengers declare peace?
There are two things I’d like to spotlight. I hope both will help you find a measure of peace and hope in #Christmas2020.
First, remember that Jesus Himself brings hope.
The angels weren’t describing the conditions of the world—they were expressing the plan of God that would be outpoured to those who would receive Him. Jesus is the Prince of Peace even when our life—or our world—is overflowing with chaos.
As we turn our eyes away from the distractions and focus in on Him, we will receive the gifts of hope, peace, and love that He freely offers.
My wife and I have a good friend who is a nurse on the frontlines of treating COVID patients. Needless to say, there is no shortage of depressing factors that confront her each day—especially as she contracted it from work several months ago and, thank God, recovered. When my wife and I checked in on her by phone this past week, I was truly blessed to hear the positive optimism in her voice as we talked about the current crisis.
What is it? What allows for hope in the face of overwhelming negativity?
Simply choosing to blur out the negative and focus on the hope that heaven promises.
For Joseph and Mary, the singing of the angelic choir didn’t eliminate their swiftly-approaching problems. They still had to deal with the stigma of an unbelievable pregnancy. Herod would still send his assassins. They would have to run for their lives in the middle of the night and live in exile for the forseeable future.
But, sustaining them through it all were the testimony of the shepherds that Mary pondered in her heart (Luke 2:19), and the memory of the miracles that transformed a cave on a hill into the birthplace of the Messiah.
Second, Remember that Jesus always comes when He is most needed.
The cry of a baby that night in Bethlehem was the most timely sound the world ever heard! Since the time of Moses, the people of Israel had looked for the Messiah. Perhaps they thought they needed Him desperately when the Philistines and other nations conquered them during the days of the Judges.
No doubt they thought He would deliver them in the days of the Assyrian conquest. When the Babylonians reduced Jerusalem to rubble, or the Seleucid Empire threatened their Jewish identity, doubtless the faithful among Israel thought the Messiah would surely would come now!
But He didn’t come. Not then.
As much as Israel thought they needed a savior, it was “in the fullness of time” that an infant’s cry shattered the reign of a long, dark night. The Light of the World first flickered inside a dank cave on a Judean hillside—and the Hope that humanity had long forgotten was restored.
Like a true hero, Jesus always shows up when He is most needed—in your life and in our world. We may think that today is the day, but be hopeful knowing that God knows the intimate details of every situation.
He is not forgetful. He is not impotent. But He is always on time.
If your eyes are filled with tears this Christmas because loved ones aren’t at the table, look away from the pain for just a moment to see the Hope that Jesus still offers. If your wallet is empty, and the children’s gifts will be sparse or missing, rejoice in the true gift of hope that is still available “without money and without price (Isaiah 55:1).”
And I truly pray that #Christmas2020 will be the most meaningful of all.
From my family to yours,
The smallest flame will conquer the darkness.
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