Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 8:18-25
Christmas is a time we remind ourselves of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. The traditional way we express such a hope is through the lighting of a candle.
Symbolically, the candle represents the little goodness in a world of overwhelming evil and darkness. In every major crisis, candles are lighted. The message is two-fold. One, the world is full of evil and grief. Two, there is a need for the little goodness to come out to dispel the gloom and despair. It expresses the desire and hope that something good can come out of what seems a hopeless situation.
In fact, some may ask:
“How can we celebrate Christmas at such a time as this? There are problems everywhere: wars, hunger, discrimination, prejudices, injustice, etc. Where is God? Is He good? Why didn’t He do something? Is He helpless and hopeless as well? Why can’t He get rid of all the problems? Why is cancer and AIDS so prevalent? People are dying everywhere. Isn’t He concerned at all? Is He waiting for everybody to die before He does something? Could it be that there is really nothing that He can do?”
As we ask all these questions, deep on our hearts, we know that God cares. He is not lacking in power or ability, yet, there are reasons beyond our comprehension on why all these problems are still around and why there is still so much evil around. And Christmas is God’s answer to all those nagging doubts and thoughts plaguing us.
In Christmas, God brings us a message of Hope. God will solve all those problems but in His own time and way. God’s way consists of a promise –
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
During the 1st century, just before Jesus was born, the Jews were waiting for the Messiah. Think of it. They have waited for a long time. Did they give up? No! That is the work of hope. There is something to look forward to. They look forward to their deliverance. They thought that they would be delivered from the Romans but God wanted them to be delivered from sin, hatred and prejudice. Jesus came to give, life, joy, love and peace. All in good time, God fulfilled His promises made in the past.
The Objective of Hope
Many people look for happiness, harmony and security. We look for a perfect world, where there is no problems, no sickness, no death, no grief, no war, no hatred, no backbiting, no fears, etc.
I remember a conversation with an Englishman who was a Buddhist. His reasoning for becoming a Buddhist was his unhappiness with what is going on in the corporate world, the competition and backbiting was something he didn’t like. He said that he found peace in Buddhism. Though I was sad to hear this, I know that many like him are seeking for peace, happiness and meaning in life.
Actually, that was what Christ came for. He came to redeem mankind and all creation. He came to restore man to God. He came to bring peace and forgiveness. Yet, we see a paradox here. If He came to bring peace on earth, why are there so many problems, even among Christians? This is precisely why there is a need for Hope in the Christian faith.
The Christian faith consists of an ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. Some things are already here, but some things are yet to be. There are so many promises in the Bible, some fulfilled, and some yet to be fulfilled; some are already here and some to come in the future. That’s the essence of Hope – the eager expectation of things to come. It requires waiting and it requires faith. Hope gives us something to look forward to. That’s why Paul wrote, “For in this hope we were saved. but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom. 8:24-25).
Yes, there are still many problems in the world. There are still wars, killing and bitterness. There are racial prejudices, hatred and vengeance. People are fearful and suspicious of one another. Many more are bedridden, dying or in despair. But don’t you see that all these problems cause us to look for better days to come? As long as people are suffering, we value Hope.
We cling to the expectation that an end will come to all the wars and suffering, pain and tears, hatred and bitterness. We look forward to the dawn that follows the night. We look forward to the joy that follows tears, just like childbirth follows labour. As Christians, we look forward to Christ’s Second Coming. We look forward to heaven, where there are no more pain or tears, no more sicknesses and death.
The Implications for Christians
- Our present sufferings should cause us to long (hope) for His glory (Rom. 8:18-25)
- We know that in our moments of weaknesses, the Holy Spirit will help us (Rom. 8:26,27)
- We know that all things will work out well for those who love and trust Him (Rom. 8:28)
- We know that nothing will keep us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39).
Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas.
~ Rev. Lim Kim Hock
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