I’ve been thinking about hope recently and the importance of it for individuals, families and communities.
Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, life can be disappointing. Even the greatest lives are punctuated with loss and heart- break. It seems that pain is inevitable and while we may say that we know good will come out of it, what hurts still hurts! Understandably, this can culminate in the strongest among us losing hope in life, in God and even in ourselves.
As members of the human race we all need hope. We can’t live without it. It is the lifeblood to our survival and the only thing that pulls us out of the deep trenches of pain and hurt that are part and parcel of life on earth.
However, more often than not our hope lacks a sense of certainty. Its little other than a wish – its something that we want to happen, but have no idea that it will, so we keep our fingers crossed and hope that everything will turn out the way we want it.
The reality is, life often doesn’t turn out the way we’d hoped and after a while that can lead us to conclude there is nothing in which we can confidently hope.
Such was the landscape of life when Jesus entered our world. The prevailing mood in Israel was anything but hopeful. The once proud nation of Israel was now a puppet state of the Roman Empire. Centuries before they’d been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but that had never happened!
Into this sense of hopelessness true hope was born – hope for the forgiveness of sins – hope for a better future – hope for God’s presence - hope that would enable people to leave their past and set their sights on stuff that wouldn’t disappear or disappoint - hope that because of Jesus would be laced with certainty and not just another wish to be crushed by the reality of every day living.
The central truth is, this world is God’s and He has visited it. He is here with us and around us waiting to be welcomed.
The trouble is we are so slow to realise this and grasp His outstretched hand. We think of Him as far off and out of reach. The birth of the Christ shouts to us across the seas of hurt, loss and pain.
God has come to us and He is with us, never to leave us, closer to us than breathing and nearer than hands and feet.
While there is much in our world that blinds us to God’s presence and many who see nothing but the dark side of the cloud and little of the silver lining, there is nonetheless hope for everybody contained within the Biblical narrative of the familiar and much loved Nativity.
Whether we are rich like the wise men or poor like the shepherds Jesus loves us. Our bank balance, political identity, religious label and social status make no difference whatsoever.
He values us as we are. The star that shone on the road to Bethlehem still shines for us and gives us hope for a better tomorrow.
Christmas is the best gift we’ll ever get; it’s the only gift that lasts forever and it’s the one gift we can all enjoy for the rest of our lives. Happy Christmas.