Christmas Bridge ’08

Hope is rising

As I write this, there is a great tide of hope rising in America. They have a new President Elect, and they have been given promises of change and new, even historic, beginnings.

But there are also many who are struggling to find hope … people for whom the economic problems of the last few months have meant a loss of jobs, pensions, and maybe even homes.

As we enter the Christmas season, many have hopes for Christmas – some may be excited about a gift … others may be longing to see a loved one … and we will certainly have that annual hope that it might even snow on Christmas Day !!

Hope is something that runs through the Christmas story.

It begins with the hopes of an elderly priest and his wife, longing for a son, and hoping beyond hope that God would hear their prayer, and of the first encounter with the angel Gabriel.

We discover long-held hopes for freedom and justice for a downtrodden people, and God’s response to their cries – elements that resonate with so many parts of our world today.

We find hopes for a better life, for a new King, for a Saviour, for purpose, for change …

Some of this sounds all very familiar … these are hopes many still look for.

The Christmas story tells us that God understands the deep-felt hopes we have … and answers them in a baby; in something so fragile and dependant, hope comes.

Many will tell you today that this is nonsense – that God “probably” doesn’t exist anyway, so why bother. But many will also say that God has met their hopes and dreams in ways that were way beyond their imaginings ! So who is right ?

Hope can be dashed if our hope is based in the wrong things. As we have seen clearly this year, people whose lives are based in financial security have been seriously challenged. As banks have been shaken, and some collapsed, the effects are felt right across society.

Hope can be dashed too if we see hope as “wishful thinking”, like the child hoping for a new bike, or the latest computer game, or the buying of a Lottery ticket.

But for God, hope is about looking forward to something which is assured … It is about the value that God places on us, a value that comes out of His love for us.

And so Christmas is full of hope, because it is at Christmas that we celebrate God entering our fragile and vulnerable world, and walking alongside us through those uncertainties with an unchangeable and unassailable love.

With His love giving us value, we can face the uncertainties with a new perspective, unafraid of the changing and falling values of the world around us. We can dare to reach out to help others struggling under the weight of their lives. Hope in God helps us see things differently, and respond generously to one another.

May God open our eyes to the hope of Christmas, and live in that hope together in a new way.

Wishing you God’s blessing of hope this Christmas,

Martin