Christmas grace – about Hope

On a rainy day in December, the wren sings defiant at the dawning of day. I hear him and am glad for his song.

The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas bring all the emotions. Sweet memories of days gone by brighten the corner where I am. Anniversaries and rembrances of other days can bring a tear. I feel things deeply. I carry burdens of friends and family along with my personal baggage. Sometimes it gets too heavy, and I remind myself that Jesus is the one who bears the weight of the world, not I.

I look for joy, peace, hope. I cling to the promises and hold them close to my heart. Are they not the gifts of this season? Are they not given to us by the Father of lights, who lavishes His grace on us without measure?

There have been days I fought for joy. Because joy is worth the struggle. I counted gifts with determination, sometimes writing the word, “I’m breathing in and breathing out.” It was all I could write. I set JOY before my eyes, hanging from window latches, resting on tables, reminders to battle on.

Christmas is joy, and cards in the mail reiterate the songs, their sparkly designs a visual rejoicing. I receive them and I mail them, thankful for people we call friends. They are gifts from the Living Lord.

And I know joy and sorrow are parallel tracks of a train.

There are lonely souls in crowds and broken bodies in hospital beds bearing the weight of heartache even while the world hangs ornaments and lights on a tree. The homeless in my home town shuffle toward a back alley on the cold night. People suffer while the music blasts “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”

As I read the Advent scriptures, I am confronted with truth. Jesus came in the harsh reality of a people sad, sick, and scratching out a living. They were looking for consolation, the hope of Israel, a redeemer and savior to take away all the suffering and oppression.

Mary and Joseph felt the heaviness too. The babe bearing down in Mary’s womb. The responsibility bearing down on Joseph’s shoulders. Hurrying to Bethlehem, they hoped for a warm room with a bit privacy for the coming of a child.

Instead, there was a crowded city, houses full with no room for a pregnant woman needing a birthing place and a midwife. Maybe they wondered if they’d taken a wrong turn, wondered if they’d understood the angel’s message, wondered what in the world God was doing?

I have wondered the same.

In a night of deep slumber, I awaken to words spoken to my spirit, “Hope in God.” Through my sleepiness, I recall the verse and in the morning I turn to Psalm 42 and 43 where the composer repeats this: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

The Word is familiar, words I learned as a child, rehearsed in my growing, and cling to now. I encourage myself in the Lord like David, the sweet singer of Israel.

At the little thrift store I frequent, there on the top shelf, is the sign for sale in large letters, “HOPE.” I pick it up, hold it to me, purchase it, and set it before me as a reminder. It is an Ebenezer stone.

The hope written in the book of Hebrews is not a penny thrown in the wishing well. It is an anchor for my soul, a sure proclamation cast into the Holy of holies where Jesus, my High Priest, intercedes for me.

” . . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever . . . ” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV

Hope is my memorial stone in this season. I set it and mark it and repeat it to myself. I cling to its message. Hope in God.

Luke tells us of an old man named Simeon, who went to the temple as was his custom, and he saw the common young couple with the newborn baby. He knew, felt the quickening of his spirit – this child was the promise, the Consolation of Israel. He took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed the God who is our hope, whose promises are true and will come to us. He has come to us, He is with us – Immanuel

Though the night lengthens, though the heart is heavy, though the body weakens and trembles, though our prayers appear unanswered, there is a hope, an anchor. There is a Savior who came to us. He came for us.

Jesus, the Hope of the world. He is my hope, my anchor and my sure foundation. I will stand on this.

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