Christmas: The possibilities of hope
It’s Christmas. Unabashedly, unashamedly, unapologetically Christmas.
And this is a Christmas column.
This is a season that lends itself to sentimentality. But beneath that layer, let’s look at the basic impulse that drives this season: Giving, because of love.
The basis of this season is love that is expressed in giving something that costs the giver but expects nothing in return.
That’s not natural. But that’s the essence of Christmas.
Granted, we all have exploited that impulse to give, both commercially and personally. But however far we move from the source of the impulse, the source remains, calling us back.
Christmas often is considered the season of hope, hope being that tender shoot that pokes green above the cold ground, seeking the sun. The shoot always thrusts toward the sun. The sun is always there.
Here’s that tender hope, expressed hundreds of years before the sun appeared:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” — Isaiah 9:6.
Then the shoot meets the sun:
“And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” — Luke 2:10-12.
Then here is hope, grown strong:
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that you are John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He said to them, But whom say you that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” — Matthew 16:13-17.
And the greatest hope was reborn after a cruel disappointment and a complete dashing of natural hopes:
“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’” — Acts 1:3-11.
And so they went — in hope.
“I want to know the Messiah — what his resurrection power is like and what it means to share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, though I hope to experience the resurrection from the dead.
“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already become perfect. But I keep pursuing it, hoping somehow to embrace it just as I have been embraced by the Messiah Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it yet.
“But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly call in the Messiah Jesus.” — Philippians 3:10-14.
A baby is born; the parents experience the joy of the gift of life entrusted to them. And they hope; they have many hopes, looking far ahead.
This one little baby born in a stable was the embodiment of hope — not just hope for a future that would naturally end in death, but hope for a future in which death, that last enemy, would itself be beaten, extinguished, done away with, and eternal hope would face the Son in eternal life.
Life over death. Hope fulfilled, winning over hopelessness.
A baby, born specifically to die. For us, that we might live in the power of his undying and hope-full life.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” — John 14:6.
And just like Tim Tebow’s eyeliner sign says,” For God so loved the world that he gave ...”
That’s the definition of supernatural love. Into our natural world came a supernatural love in the form of a baby boy. The baby grew into a man of hope, who died, for us. He beat death and rose again. He waits for us to receive the gift of the two mornings: Christmas and Easter. He waits for all God’s children to receive Him.
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have a really big party planned to gather their family together for the feast of the ages. It’s bigger and better than all the Thanksgivings and Christmases put together. You are invited.
This has been a Christmas column. Merry Jesus Christ-mas to every man, woman and child on earth, whatever your current belief or lack thereof.
[Cal Beverly is the editor and publisher of The Citizen.]