Hope in His Return
Hope shines in the faces of expectant children on Christmas Day. Waiting is finally over and hope dawns on a new and special day when all things are different. A child born in lowly conditions in Bethlehem changed the course of history. The angelic announcement rings true in the songwriter's words "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."
How could the characters who gathered at the stable have fully comprehended what hopes this infant brought to the world? Yet, they gathered in Bethlehem with hope despite overwhelming circumstantial efforts to crush hope. Our Christmas gatherings reflect the hope birthed that holy night. In the face of challenges, we breathe the air of hope and linger with the silence of our souls hoping to embrace the spirit of Christmas and this holy child now among us.
Human imagination is touched by the revelation of a transcendent God come near. The Messiah birthed and now God is approachable. That shift in our understanding of God is seismic. Like light piercing darkness, we now see God among us. The prophet Isaiah declared the virgin will give birth to a son "and shall name him Immanuel," (Isaiah 7:14) "which means, 'God is with us.'"(Matthew 1:23). In a breathtaking moment celebrated in a humble context, God brought together hope and fear by the birth of Jesus. A promise long anticipated with hopeful expectation against the backdrop of circumstantial difficulties. Christmas Day 2012 is a reminder that hope is not a wasted effort but rather a foundation for faithful belief and courageous living. Like expectant children anticipating the Christmas Day celebration, we live with a hope that longs for the day of Christ's return. It touches the deep desires of our hearts as we cry out for the promise of the angels on that Christmas Eve centuries ago, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those who he favors!" (Luke 2:14). According to John the favored ones are "all who received him, who believed in his name" for they were given the "power to become children of God" (John 1:12). As children, we have the seeds of hope birthed within us. Paul describes it as "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). We no longer need to remain in the darkness of distance but are invited to draw near in faith, to be embraced as children in God's family and experience this wondrous gift.
Christmas Day is a reminder that we have received the incredible gift that brings God into our lives. At the same time, we are reminded that we now join sisters and brothers worldwide who "wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). With soulful yearning and deep rooted anticipation, we long for Christ's promised return, the ultimate gift. That day of return will create spontaneous celebration and adoration. Hope realized will be our source of praise to our God for the faithfulness of a promise kept and an expectant hope fulfilled.
Before, we were exhorted to "Rejoice in hope" (Romans 12:12). Now, we will sing the songs of thanksgiving from the realization of Christ with us and will "enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise" (Psalms 100:4). We experience the steadfastness of his love, which endures throughout time, and see that his promises result in the reality of "his faithfulness to all generations" (Psalms 100:5). Christmas Day celebrations are a foretaste of the hope of Christ's return and every day is as a Christmas Day celebration. Celebrate well.
—Eldon Fry, D.Min. College pastor