Christmas and Hope

Posted by Andy Charnstrom on

Dear Friends:
I mentioned during worship Sunday that my wife Donna and I had gone to the Christmas concert by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith the night before.  In addition to those two well-known stars of contemporary Christian music, a fellow named Jordan Smith, who had been a contestant on "The Voice" also sang, and he was simply amazing, especially as he sang my favorite, "O Holy Night."  The depth at which that hymn touches my soul--the depth at which the Christmas impacts my soul--still amazes me.  No part of any song means as much to me, at Christmas, as these lyrics:
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
Amy Grant introduced several songs and, as she did, she made reference a few times to those who may be struggling this Christmas--struggling with problems, struggling with emotions, struggling just with finding a place for Christmas in their hearts.  It was refreshing to hear this honesty suggested, as so many performers--and, especially, Christians (at Christmas and other times) seem to pretend that, with enough faith and prayer and reverence, all problems are avoided.  Trouble knocks on the doors of only the faithless and, if we are struggling with our feelings, it is best to just keep them hidden deep inside.
In the world that surrounds us, it is just that attitude--sort of a Christian smugness--that alienates our friends and neighbors and, worse, keeps them from observing the hope that we feel in Jesus.  If they do not see and hear the hope that is in us, why would they ever ask us about it; why would they ever listen to what we would tell them?
The most fundamental truth about Christmas is that, for hundreds of years, many thousands of people living in Israel and Judah faced the despair of hopelessness armed only with the promises of the prophets that God was watching, listening and waiting for just the right time to send the Messiah.  Although many--perhaps most--lost hope, hope remained and was fulfilled one night in the mean little town of Bethlehem, as a baby was born in the most humble of circumstances, under the cloud of the fear of those He would grow to oppose but, also, under the star that would lead the very first of those who would, over time, come to worship Him.  It was hope that allowed that star to touch the wise men, and it is hope that allows us to be open to the Light of the world today.  What a joy to know hope in this life and this world!  What a task we have, to be the salt of the earth and to share the Light of the world with those around us and, especially, those who know no hope, but only despair.
Today is the very last day of November and so the race to Christmas and to the excitement, clamor and grace of that great day is already underway.  Let us take the time, even as we lace up our running shoes and prepare to join that race, to look around us and to see the faces of those who mourn, who grieve, who despair or who, simply, are being left behind.  Even as we remain open to the Light, sustained by our hope, let us share words and deeds of hope with all of them so that they, too, this Christmas, might remain open and, in that openness, receive the light, too.  Perhaps, for someone, it will be the first time to know Jesus, the Light of the World.  What better blessing for you or for me than to be the one who helps them find it?

Tags: amy grant, christmas, hope, jesus