I sat in the darken church, Christmas tree beautifully lit, a trio of nativity figures beneath, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Centered in front of the pulpit stood the Communion Table, the elements security covered in silver trays. The music was beautiful; especially the rendition of “O Holy Night”. I listened closely, maybe for the first time ever, to the words of each individual verse. And as the elements were distributed my mind filled in the words I knew to “What Child Is This?”, as the pianist played in the quiet sanctuary.
During an earlier song, “Sleep Jesus Sleep”, individual snapshots of the accident scene flashed through my mind. Horrible images of a day I wish were only a nightmare instead of reality. My Dad sat to my left, completely unaware. I contemplated exiting the sanctuary but stubbornly remained seated thankful that the images abated once the congregation stood to sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
The Pastor took the pulpit and began to tell of the Christmas Story from Matthew chapter 1 verses 18-25. . .
And in the reverence of that darkened sanctuary I knew exactly what Christmas means to me. It is the Genesis of my most precious hope. The reason my broken heart can celebrate at all. A babe in a manger, the seed of an untouched woman, a virgin, not the seed of the first man of sin, Adam. The seed of woman as foretold in the book of Genesis and Isaiah, free of the sin nature passed down through the centuries as described in the book of Romans. The first and only sin-free man ever born. A perfect blend of deity and humanity born in a sheep fold and laid in a manger – a feed trough – how fitting for THE BREAD OF LIFE. God set aside the exaltation worthy of His holiness and took on human flesh, the cloak of humanity, wrapped in humility, to enter our world for the sole purpose of saving His creation.
And therein lies my hope. His advent led to the Via Dolorosa, to the cross, on which He would sacrificially lay down His life for the sins of the world. And so at His birth we take into our bodies the symbolic representation of His broken body and spilt blood. We remember His death. He came to die and because He did, we all have hope.
Hope that a place free of sin and sorrow awaits those who receive the free gift of salvation through faith by the grace of God. Hope that every painful loss will be redeemed by the same Savior who laid down His sinless life in atonement for our sins. Hope of reunion. Hope of perfection.
That long ago starry night, full of angels proclaiming and shepherds searching and wise men from afar worshipping a tiny babe in a dirty sheepfold, the manifestation of the redemptive hopes of all the world. We think of the gifts offered this child-king but this little baby was both the gift and the giver. A lowly birth, a shameful death . . . culminating in the foretold resurrection and the birth of hope.
Christmas – the small, seemingly insignificant babe for which there was no room – ushered hope into this world of sin.
Christmas – and Easter – brought the only hope of my eternal soul. So as packages are passed, and families gather together, and the Spector of those gone before lingers over the day, I will worship the King of kings as my heart longs for His return – longs for that great day of rejoicing – longs for reunion – longs for Jesus – the one and only hope for all of humanity.
Christmas means hope to me!