Hope, even in the darkest hour

Jean Newell, Associate Pastor, Sun Lakes United Methodist Church

Emergency vehicle sirens wailing. Hurricanes and floods destroying businesses and neighborhoods. Violence shattering lives. We live in troubled times.

In the midst of such pain and sorrow, what is it about Christmas that can still bring a smile, touch a heart or stir one’s spirit? It’s more than colored lights, decorated trees and wrapped packages, is it not?

Over 2000 years ago, life was not easy. A decree went out throughout the Roman Empire from Emperor Caesar Augustus requiring everyone to register for the census. To do so required returning to one’s birthplace. Thus, it was a carpenter named Joseph and his very pregnant wife Mary had no choice but to make the long, arduous journey from their home in Nazareth to his hometown of Bethlehem. Not an easy journey to make in the best of times, but especially difficult with a baby due any day.

At journey’s end, unable to find lodging, the soon-to-be-parents found shelter in a stable. Homeless, far from home and lacking a support system familiar to them, the couple prepared as best they could for the imminent birth.

What must it have been like for Mary as she held her newborn son for the first time? Did she carefully count his fingers and toes? Did she gently kiss his forehead? Did she know the angel told Joseph that she would “bear a son” and he was to be named “Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” – Matthew 1:21? Did Mary wonder how it was possible the baby she cuddled so closely would bring hope for all generations?

Obviously, we don’t know what Mary thought, but God’s Word declares that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” – John 3:16. Therein lies our hope!

In a world in which the battle between good and evil continues to wage on, what is it about Christmas that continues to bring smiles, touch hearts and stir spirits? Maybe for some, Christmas is all about to-do lists, last minute shopping and holiday parties. However, for many, Christmas is more about the hope that is ours through faith in the One born in a Bethlehem stable – the hope that prevails even when one walks through the darkest of valleys – the hope that promises goodwill to all and peace on earth!