There are many things that are part of the Christmas season. I would add to the long list “Christmas Gift Lists.” Christmas lists are a big help in our seasonal gift buying. I find it helpful to receive some help in this area. We want to give gifts that are desired and appreciated. Yet in thinking about the real meaning of Christmas there are a few gifts that each of us should want!
Christmas is a special time in our family. It is a time to get together. It is also a time to shower love on each other with gifts. Caryl and I will often ask the kids for a “list.” These lists are a tremendous help to us in selecting appropriate gifts. The one caveat is that we have the right to do something else. Our kids asks us for ideas as well. Caryl’s annual response to the kids’ request is always that same. She responds, “I just want to have everyone together for Christmas.” If you think about her response it reminds us that we have desires that are more important that any tangible item. This past Sunday, and for the remaining Sundays in December, we are reminded of the gift that God has given to us in Jesus Christ. This past week we were reminded how Christmas brings hope.
Our attention was focused on a passage that prophesied about the coming Messiah. We read this in Isaiah 9:2, “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:1–2) Those familiar with the life of Jesus will connect the prophetic dots. This passage is speaking of Jesus’ ministry in the area of Galilee. What stood out to me in the passage is that Jesus’ birth was a gift of hope for those living in a dark world. I need to talk about Biblical hope because it is different that our definition of hope today. Our definition of hope often includes a component of desire. It is something that may or may not happen, but we would desire a certain outcome. For instance, “I hope my team wins this week.” Our definition of hope is different from the Bible definition in that the outcome is not guaranteed. The Bible’s definition of hope is always based on a commitment of the Creator that His followers can count on.
The prophetic promise of Isaiah 9 is found in the context of a time of great darkness. The people had turned their back on God and would the face terrible consequences of foreign conquest and captivity. Yet, they could have hope in God’s guarantee of a promised deliverer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We gain a clearer understanding of this hope, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7) It is here that we learn that the gift of God’s son, Jesus, reveals that God Cares for Me. The promise that He will one day govern humanity reminds us that life will then be the way God intended it to be. The four titles used for the Messiah speak of His deity and remind us that we can trust his direction for our lives (Wonderful Counselor), There is nothing that He cannot handle (Mighty God), He will never change His mind (Everlasting Father) and He will bring true and lasting peace ( Prince of Peace). The passage ends with a reminder that the Lord will accomplish all that He promises (the zeal of the Lord will do this!).
If is easy to miss this incredible Christmas gift. It you find yourself struggling and even discouraged or angry, I would encourage you to ponder the thought above as one of the gifts that God has given to your because of Christmas. The gift of Hope!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson