A very merry Advent to you all! My goodness—Christmas is almost here! And “we need a little Christmas,” don’t we? Right this very minute!
You probably saw the decorations going up early this fall. After this rough year, I think everyone is longing for some joy. 2020 brought a lot of disappointment and heartache with it, all across the fabric of our lives—school, work, church, family, community. We suffered a lot of losses. You might say that hope took quite a beating this year.
And just in time (trumpets please): Christmas—the season of hope!!
Christmas is the declaration and celebration of hope fulfilled. And greater hopes awakened.
Think of what the world was like right before the birth of Jesus: It was a time of political corruption and upheaval, of massive social unrest. The Jews living in Israel were under restrictions, deprivations and changing demands by the authorities. Their economy was hammered. There wasn’t much to look forward to. Hope was hard to come by.
Then suddenly, the most unexpected thing happened: A cry in the night. A visitation of angels.
Now, if you were only watching the news in Jerusalem two thousand and twenty years ago, there would have been no reason at all to expect anything to change…let alone a miracle. And yet a miracle is exactly what happened! The greatest miracle of all miracles. A miracle that rescued the human race. The Kingdom of God broke into this captive world. God intervened.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. (Isaiah 9:6)
The lesson we repeat every Christmas is this: God keeps his promises. He intervenes. Especially in the darkest moments.
And this is a very, very crucial lesson for us to proclaim right now. Let me explain why.
2020 was a kind of shaking and spiritual “sifting.” The world was shaken; we were all shaken, and sifted, and it revealed where our hopes and security were actually placed. We discovered we weren’t as steadfast as we thought. We discovered that Jesus was not exactly our all-in-all. Now we are looking for someplace to put our hopes. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard folks say, “I just can’t wait for 2020 to be over.” I totally relate; we all do. But I’m concerned we are set up for an even bigger loss of heart, because basically what we’re saying is, “I’m putting my hope in 2021.” And that’s just not a safe, nor biblical place for our hope.
Biblical hope is not fixed on a vaccine, and the promised return of “life back to normal.” You don’t need God for that hope. (Which is why the world has seized upon it.) Christian hope is fixed on a Person—on the utter goodness and reliability of the God who intervened in Bethlehem, when all was hopeless.
For you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:5)
Here’s my concern: We’re all a little beat up, and the enemy has jumped on our vulnerable hearts. Hopelessness is coming over humanity like a dark cloud. The battle in the coming months is going to be for hope and belief. Because the world will let us down. Vulnerable souls are losing that battle even now. So God brings Christmas just in time, to remind us who he is, and where our hopes should be set:
In his name the nations will put their hope. (Matthew 12:21)
We put our hope in God, who promised he would intervene, and did. So we declare with Isaiah 9:2-7…
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
O yes, Lord—shine your light on us again. It’s been a dark year. Shine your light on us Father!
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.
Increase our joy here at the end of 2020; remind us of how much we have in you.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
O Jesus—this has been an oppressive year. Shatter the rod of our oppressors. Lift the heaviness off our hearts. Give us your hope, Lord.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
Jesus, whatever the governments of this world do, we declare that YOU are our King, and you are a good king. We take our place in your Kingdom! We bring our Christmas into your Kingdom, Lord. We bring our 2021 into your Kingdom, Jesus.
Friends, let’s win this battle for hope and belief by seizing the lesson of Christmas with both hands: by setting our hopes not on circumstances, but on a Person—on the utter goodness and reliability of our God who intervened in Bethlehem, when all was hopeless. And who has promised to intervene again, in an even more dramatic way!
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
Merry Christmas, everyone!
PS. Download the Wild at Heart December 2020 newsletter here.