I know what you’re thinking. Hope for the holidays? Who needs hope at the holidays? This is the greatest time of the year.
But hold on a second. For many, the holidays are anything but filled with hope. In fact, there are people in our world for whom the holidays cannot go quickly enough.
The first Christmas, as for many people today, was anything but problem-free.
Let’s take Mary for example. She was engaged. And I imagine, like for most young girls, she was excited about her upcoming marriage. Maybe she had even been dreaming about this moment her entire life.
All of a sudden, an angel appears and tells her that she is with child. I’m guessing this is not what Mary had planned for her dream wedding. After all, she understands what the consequences will be when everyone, especially her fiancé Joseph, finds out she’s pregnant. And I’m quite certain that in this moment, Mary was in need of a little hope.
Then there was Joseph, who could not wait to marry the woman of his dreams! But all of a sudden, an angel appears to him, and he finds out he’s going to be a father! Well, sort of. I mean, it’s not his child, right?
Joseph is devastated. If you know the story, Joseph decides to leave Mary quietly, so as not to bring shame on her. This is not at all what Joseph had pictured in his mind when he asked Mary to marry him. And I’m sure, that in this moment, Joseph was in need of a little hope.
And if all that was not enough, Caesar issues a decree that a census should be taken, requiring everyone to travel to his or her own hometown. Even though Mary’s doctor was not crazy about her traveling at this late stage of pregnancy, off they went.
When Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem, it’s all overbooked — no rooms available, anywhere. They end up in a cave, and it is here that Jesus, the promised Savior, is born. And I have no doubt that both Mary and Joseph were in need of a little hope.
Now, you would think the story would be over at this point. Enough is enough, already! However, King Herod, a very insecure person at best, finds out that the Savior is to be born in Bethlehem and sends wise men to find the child. But God tells Joseph to escape to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. After everything they had been through, now they were on the run for their very lives? I’m sure they were in need of a little hope.
When Herod discovers he had been outwitted, he orders all the baby boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity that are 2 years old or younger, to be killed. Then everyone in the land was in need of a little hope.
So you see, even those who were part of the first Christmas story, were in need of a little hope. Not to mention that Jesus, the Savior of the world, left his home in heaven in the first place to come to earth. By the time the story of Jesus’ earthly life is complete, it ends in his early death by crucifixion. All along the way, hope seems to be lost over and over again.
Now, I don’t know how you’re feeling this holiday season. I have no idea what all is going on in your life. And you just may be in need of a little hope.
So, let me offer hope to you this way: There is a significant difference between facing hard times for doing what’s right and facing hard times for doing what’s wrong. For Mary, Joseph and Jesus, they went through some challenging times, not because they were doing anything wrong, but because they were doing everything right.
When you face hard times for doing things wrong, those are called consequences. Most people understand that. It’s when you’re doing everything right and things still seem to go wrong, where most people have the trouble.
If that’s you right now, please don’t be discouraged. Take hope. Just maybe, you’ve been entrusted with something that can only happen as you do everything right, even as you experience trials and hardship.
The ultimate story of hope actually begins at a manger, where hope seemed lost over and over again.
In the end, the defining hope moment for all humanity was realized when people who were doing everything right decided to remain faithful and not give up, even when all hope seemed lost.
Brad LeRoy is pastor of Harvest Church in M
t. Comfort. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.