Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “To live without hope is to cease to live.” As human beings we need hope, and yet so often what we end up placing our hope in disappoints us and lets us down. In a world filled with politicians, products, and people that don’t live up to the promises they make to us. In a time where the hope of perpetual progress seems to have been dashed; where can we find the hope we need? In Romans 15:1-13 Paul shows us how the hope we’ve been searching for is ultimately found in Christ. In him we can find a hope that will never fail, never disappoint, a can transform our lives and overflow out of us to bring transformation to the world around us.
Hope, Peace, Joy, Love they aren’t just words, they are deep needs and longings that live inside every human heart, longings that only find their ultimate fulfillment through Jesus. If we are truly going to experience the hope, peace, joy and love that Christmas promises it is going to require us to choose to recognize the baby’s whose birth we celebrate as the Saviour and King.
When Joseph became aware of Mary’s pregnancy, he had a choice to make. His first impulse was to quietly divorce her. This decision was noble because it would have prevented Mary from experiencing the punishment required for adultery. God intervenes and gives Joseph a message to still proceed with their marriage even though he is not the father of the child. Joseph had another decision to make. What are some of the lessons we can learn from Joseph’s choice to love Mary and obey God?
It is easy to look at Mary’s song of praise through the lens of history and take for granted her joy at being chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Looking through the lens of that moment however, as an unwed mother, having to explain to the man she was betrothed to that yes she was pregnant, but no she hadn’t been unfaithful, it took choosing to see beyond her present circumstances to rejoice. Yet rejoice she did because, despite the difficulties that faithfully trusting God may have brought into her life, the blessings of being chosen by Him and used by Him far surpassed the momentary difficulties she would experience. Mary was able to have joy because she chose to see the bigger picture of what God was going to do in her, through her and for her through the child she would give birth to, the fullness of which we will see when Jesus comes again.
At the nativity the Angels praise God and speak these well known words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” The word peace has been synonymous from the very birth of Christ and yet so often this season seems anything but peaceful. How do we experience the peace the angels proclaimed that first Christmas? By reminding ourselves that “The Lord is at hand,” Jesus is near. We can choose to bring our anxieties, fears, worries and struggles to him and when everything seems to be coming undone we choose to have faith that the day is coming when he is going to return and put everything back together.
The story of Anna the prophetess is a story of choosing hope. For 84 years she was a part of a group of faithful Jews who believed the word of God, served him faithfully, and looked forward with anticipation to the coming of the Messiah he had promised. She chose hope even when it may have seemed foolish to hope. If we are going to be people of hope it will require us to be like Anna and continue to believe the promises of God, not only that Jesus came and made our redemption possible, but also that he is going to come again to bring a restoration of all things that is inevitable.