Christmas Eve: God Broke Through the Hopelessness with Hope
Years ago my mother and I travelled to Oxford, England to be with my sister Barbara and her husband Kevin for a few days after their son Joseph’s birth. The plan was for us to arrive just after Joseph was born so that we could help with his four-year-old sister, Anna Keren, for a week as she adjusted to the arrival of their newest family member. As you can imagine, it was a challenge to time the flight just right. Those of you who have waited with great expectation for a baby to be born know exactly what I mean. Will the baby arrive on the due date? (That happens on rare occasions). Or would the little one come late? Maybe even while we were flying over “the big pond.” Joseph cooperated beautifully. He was born just before we left Kentucky and was home from the hospital by the time my mother and I arrived in Oxford.
It was a precious time when Mom and I walked into my brother-in-law and sister’s home to meet two-day old Joseph. I felt so many emotions as my sister proudly showed him to us. The strongest emotion of all was the same one I experience every time I see or hold a newborn baby: hope. Hope for my sister and her family, hope for the world, hope for humankind. American poet and writer, Carl Sandburg said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/18066-a-baby-is-god-s-opinion-that-the-world-should-go.
I agree! Indeed, a newborn child is the most powerful symbol of hope I know.
But never was such hope at a more significant pitch than when two people, 20 centuries ago, met the newborn Jesus. As soon as Simeon and Anna saw the baby Jesus, they realized that he was the fulfillment of all their hopes and dreams. Not just for that particular day - but for eternity.
Not just for Mary and Joseph and their family - but for the entire world. Simeon was so moved that he burst into a powerful statement of praise. Anna reacted by telling anyone who seemed interested that the Messiah - the Hope of Israel - had finally been born. Jesus’ birth into the world caused Hope to be born into their hearts.
We all need hope, don’t we? Just as Simeon and Anna and their first century world needed hope, so do we. The Swiss theologian Emil Bruner said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of human life.” https://www.quoteswave.com/picture-quotes/351664. He is right. We cannot thrive, we cannot even survive, without hope.
Thankfully we serve a God who has offered us hope since the very beginning of time. Adam and Eve were God’s crowning acts of creation. Yet they sinned against God, which resulted in deep pain for them and the world. God responded by holding them accountable for their actions. But God also gave them hope that One would come who would make everything right in the end.
God promised humanity a Messiah, a Savior. And Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. But Jesus is more than a promise come true. Jesus is God’s Son. He is God come to Earth. He is the reason that we celebrate Christmas. Born in a stable in Bethlehem that first Christmas so long ago, he lived in the northern part of Israel in an area called Galilee. He taught, prayed, healed the sick, and forgave sin. Then he did the most courageous and sacrificial act this world has ever known. He died on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and thus for our salvation. How did Jesus' death work such a miracle? That is a profound mystery, one that merits a fuller discussion at another time. Ultimately, Jesus’ death and resurrection made it possible for us to experience new life that begins now and continues for all eternity. This is why the message is still being carried around the world after twenty centuries.
Here is the most important part of that news. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, breaking the chains of sin and death in our lives. In that moment, true hope was born.
I need hope today. I suspect each of you do, too. That is why we are spending devotional time with God on this Christmas Eve instead of cooking, wrapping presents, watching White Christmas or Elf or doing something else. We are looking for hope. Innately we know that the manger of the Christ Child is the place where we can find hope that will sustain us through the challenges of life. Christmas is a wonderful season filled with bright lights and joyful sounds. But it is also a hard time for many of us as we remember better days in our past or face the disappointment of our present. If ever we need hope, it is on Christmas Eve. And hope is what we find as we worship the Christ Child this evening. Hope gives life meaning and purpose. Hope allows us to get through tough days with courage. Hope encourages our spirits, brightens our existence, and helps us to reach beyond ourselves toward God. Hope does not always make sense from this side of Heaven. But it is the reality that lifts us beyond the challenging circumstances that life on Earth brings.
So how is it this Christmas Eve with you, me and hope? I'm thinking at this moment of the situations with which all of us have to cope from day-to-day: matters like our physical health. Freedom from pain. Breaking from an addiction. Something in our past that we regret with all of our heart. A fear that we so want to overcome. A relationship that has taken a tragic turn. A loved one who has died. A broken heart. Our future.
This Christmas Eve I offer great news to you and me. Whatever brokenness in our lives, past or present, there is hope for us. When our Savior Jesus Christ was on this Earth, he healed the sick, loved the outcasts, fed the hungry, calmed the storms of life and even raised the dead. Jesus Christ has not changed. He is still seeking to meet the needs of our lives. And he is able to do so in his way and time. Because when his life on Earth was ended and he lay dead in a grave, the seemingly impossible happened. The God of the Universe resurrected him. Even death could not hold him. In that moment hope became a reality as God broke through the hopelessness of this world.
How can you and I experience this kind of hope? I know of only one answer to that question. Look to the One who personifies hope, Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus is hope with a capital H. He is the Hope for the past, present and future. He is the Hope for what has been, is and will be. He is the Hope for you, me and the entire world.
Are you hoping to put your past behind you? Ask Jesus to forgive you for your past mistakes, mis-steps and wrong actions. He will wipe the slate clean and give you a new start. Do you need hope to get through a challenging situation you are facing? Draw strength for your present circumstances from Jesus each morning when you awaken and each night as you lay your head down on the pillow to rest. You may be afraid, but he isn’t. You may not know what to do. But he does. You may feel like giving up. But he doesn’t. Place your hope in him. Does tomorrow look hopeless and bleak to you? Look to Jesus who will give you hope. Nothing is hopeless to him because he knows the power of God like no other. He was present with the Creator when the heavens and earth were formed. He has seen God offer second chance after second chance to humanity down through the centuries. During the 30 plus years that he walked this Earth he gave hope to people in seemingly impossible circumstances. He is still about the business of offering hope today. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, hope for our eternal future with him. Someone in a very difficult situation once said to me, “I need to redefine what hope means.” Jesus helps us to do that, too.
Yes, babies are signs of hope. Indeed, each time a baby arrives safely in this world, hope is born. Baby Jesus was more than a sign, though. He was, is and will always be hope itself. No wonder Simeon broke into praise when he met the infant Christ Child. No wonder Anna told anyone who was looking for the coming of the Messiah that he had already come. No wonder you are focused on God this Christmas Eve. God has broken through the hopelessness to bring us hope. Hope has been born. What a gift! What a Savior!
From the Advent devotional titled God Broke Through at Christmas by Debra Wallace-Padgett
The Reverend Dr. Debra Wallace-Padgett was elected a Bishop of the United Methodist Church at the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. At the time of her election, she was the lead pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington, ...