I find myself thinking that our world is pretty messed up right now. Now, I am sure that this is not something new for humanity. But I have sure been burdened by all the drama. It seems we are experiencing a tsunami of despair. Yet, I am hopeful. Christmas provides one glimpse into “Why I Can Have Hope!”
Several years ago, as a lay elder, I first began enjoying the Advent celebration at the church I attended. It is something that I have carried with me to the churches I have pastored. It can be a little challenging keeping Advent fresh, especially when it is my 26th time putting it together. A couple weeks ago we celebrated the first week of Advent, which focuses on Hope. I chose to focus on one of the reasons for our hope, Jesus’ pending return.
I really enjoy Christmas. I have realized over the years that I enjoying giving gifts. Now, it does not always work this way, but I like to purchase specifics items for each individual. I am not opposed to giving cash or a gift card when that is the best option, but I definitely prefer to give a personalized gift. Yet, as much as I enjoying giving gifts I am reminded that this is not the most important aspect of Christmas for the follower of Jesus. We could add family time, parties, food or whatever to the list of secondary blessings about Christmas. One of the primary blessings of Christmas, as seen in the week 1 Advent, is that it gives humanity hope during an avalanche of despair. And one of the ways it gives us hope is by reminding us that just as Jesus came the first time… He is coming again!
I was hit by the dual fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 6:9, “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.”( Isaiah 9:6) It is in this verse, that is frequently used during the holiday, that we gain a glimpse of why followers of Jesus can be hopeful in a world of despair. The hope is found in what is coming, Jesus’ return to rule and reign as King on David’s throne. The first part of the verse was fulfilled 2000 years ago at Jesus’ birth that we celebrate as Christmas. The rest of the verse will be fulfilled when He returns!
I try to spend some time reading the comments on news articles, if they are allowed. I find that the comments are overloaded with hopelessness because those responding have no hope. This world is all they know and all they can see. Yet, Christmas is a source of hope for all humanity first because of who Jesus is and what He has done on the cross, but also because of what He is going to do! I am reminded of the words of the angelic choir to the shepherds announcing the Messiah’s birth, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
If you are struggling with the holiday season, let me encourage you to look beyond the exterior of the cultural holiday to see the Biblical truth that God is in control and Jesus is coming again. You can count on it! This gives me hope.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson