As Christmas shoppers wrap themselves in hats, coats and scarves, the bitter cold reminds us of those for whom the winter, and even Christmas-time is itself a struggle. People without houses face more than usually inhospitable conditions, and many, many others struggle to pay bills for heating or food.
Images of the baby Jesus in a straw-filled manger – perhaps under a snow-covered stable roof – will perhaps speak to us of comfort and warmth, leading us to forget momentarily that he was born in an inhospitable world. “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.” Shepherds and Magi may have welcomed him, but Herod had babies murdered in an effort to kill him. That plot might have failed, but it was just a matter of time…
Yet this season is often said to be one of hope. During the course of 2016 we have seen significant political upheaval in different parts of the world, including here in the United Kingdom. The new year will no doubt be met with hope. But what is the foundation of that hope? When we “turn over a new leaf” or “begin a new chapter”, what is it that makes us think the story will be any different?
The birth of Jesus marked a radical twist in the plot. The source of Christian hope is not an optimistic expectation that things will get a little better, but the faith that the world has been changed. Our expectations of the future are radically different because Jesus’ resurrection banished the fear of death and gave a foretaste of the coming Kingdom of God.
Hope is the opposite of despair. “Whoever hopes lives differently; the one who hopes has been given a new gift of life.” I pray that we may be so renewed in our commitment to a life radically changed by hope that we share the love of Jesus with the world, and especially with those who have no hope.
With every blessing for a hope-filled Christmas.