Christmas is a time of hope. If we take the promise of Christmas seriously, then we expect that God coming to earth will make a difference in our lives and in our world.
That’s nothing new. The first prophets to proclaim the coming of a Messiah had hopes for how God’s arrival might change the world, too. Isaiah hoped that the Messiah would bring a new spirit of wisdom and understanding. He envisioned a resurgence of righteousness and a new day of justice and equity for the poor and the marginalized (Isaiah 11).
Much closer to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, John the Baptist did the same thing. As he announced the arrival of the Messiah, John the Baptist hoped for a day when God would be revealed in new and powerful ways, and he encouraged his followers to prepare for the arrival of Christ through acts of generosity and by living with integrity (Luke 3).
And even as Mary was nurturing Jesus in her womb she looked forward to a day characterized by God’s mercy when the powerful would be humbled and the lowly lifted up—when the hungry would be filled and the rich sent away empty-handed (Luke 1).
Last Wednesday at our Christmas dinner, I asked our church members what their hopes were this Christmas. As we thought about the arrival of Christ together, we shared our hopes for our families, our church, our community, and our world.
This is what we said.
HOPE FOR OUR FAMILIES
We want our families to be healthy and happy. We want God and God’s love to be central to our families’ lives. We want our family members to be understanding and forgiving of one another. We long for reconciliation and support—for restoration of frayed relationships.
Your responses reminded me that we each see struggle and unrealized potential in our own families that few others ever see. At Christmas, we remember that Christ comes to heal, restore and reconcile. That gives us great hope for our family relationships.
HOPE FOR OUR CHURCH
We want a growing sense of togetherness and unity in our church. We want to be a loving and welcoming community to all. We want to know each other better and share in each other’s lives more.
We hope that our church will be a leader in our community as we reach out to those who need Christ’s comfort and encouragement. We want to stand out and stand apart as we become more willing to take stands for Christ that distinguish us from the world. We hope for spiritual health today and for clear direction and purpose as we look toward our future.
I was encouraged to see how many of you have a deep desire to “do life” together and how strongly you are committed to making a difference in our community. If we want to make sure we have clear purpose and direction, maybe that’s it.
HOPE FOR OUR COMMUNITY
When you expressed your hopes for our community, you talked about poverty, racial reconciliation, addiction, and social ills of all kinds. You hoped for a community that was better able to move beyond things that divide us.
You hoped for peace and unity. You hoped for wisdom in leadership. You hoped for honesty and kindness. You hoped that children would have food to eat and toys to open at Christmas.
When you thought about our community, you prayed for a stronger recognition of Christ and Christian principles, and you hoped we would be guided in our interactions with one another by love.
HOPE FOR THE WORLD
Your overwhelming hope for the world is that the world would know that God is love. Love was the strong and consistent theme as you thought about what Christmas might mean for our world this year.
Hope for peace ran a strong second. Several of you articulated a hope for peace that represented more than an absence of violence, but instead a genuine sense of harmony and fellowship among all people.
When we express our hopes about how Christ might change the world at Christmas, we begin to engage in prophetic work. But expressing God-inspired hope is only part of work. To finish the prophetic task, we must begin to do the things that will turn our hopes into reality.
At Christmas, we are encouraged to hope. And, at Christmas, we are emboldened to act, knowing that God goes before us into the world.