Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. As a child, I remember the quiet nights when only the smell of fresh pine filled the room, and the warm coals from the fireplace illuminated a Christmas tree growing rapidly from the fertile soil made of gifts. I remember the meticulously hung lights from the roof line to the bushes and the snowman dressed in an ugly Christmas sweater. I remember a kitchen saturated with the aroma of celebration – turkey and ham, greens and cornbread, pies and cakes. And although we walked on carpet worn with our worries, sat in rooms that held our fears, and laid on pillows stained with our tears, this was the season where goodness was gleaned, joy was prompted, and special moments became sacred memories. A time when faith was rejuvenated, love was reaffirmed, and, most importantly, a time when hope was renewed.
This hope, which carries a meaning greater than its definition, manifests on the faces of humanity during the Christmas season. We see it in the eyes of the young boy volunteering at a homeless shelter. We feel it in the emotion of the father, overcome with gratitude for the blessing of his family. We witness it in the tears of the mother welcoming her son home from overseas. We discern it in the smile of the firefighter as he delivers gifts to the pediatric ward. And we hear it in the voice of the young girl singing Christmas carols at the nursing home.
Even creation proclaims the hope of Christmas. The night skies strikingly hold more stars than wishes. The crisp winter air speaks in the language of God, whispering of faith amid doubt, beauty amid brokenness, peace amid chaos. And the snow-covered trees gently declare that one can bend but not break, that one can be burdened but not hopeless, and that one can sway but not surrender to the storms of life.
Yet, more than the rays of hope that shine through God’s creatures and creation is a hope born of prophecy, a child born of promise. On a holy night in Bethlehem, Christ entered the world. In so doing, He declared the limitless nature of his love. No person was too ordinary or sinful. No place was too broken or blighted. Through His birth, Jesus enters our pain and our suffering. He understands the groans of discontent emanating from hearts that long for heaven. He hears the silent prayers of the poor and the desperate cries of the abandoned. He mourns with those heartbroken by grief and those guilt-ridden by shame. He sees and understands as no one else can.
When Christ was born, so was our hope.
Perhaps you need this hope today. Maybe you dreamed of a flourishing marriage, only to be handed divorce papers. Maybe you envisioned starting a family, only to encounter the problem of infertility. Maybe you developed a plan for financial freedom, only to be bound again by a burden of debt. Maybe you yearn to experience the peace of God, only to find yourself drowning in a sea of worry. Maybe you prayed for the healing of your loved one, only to stand at their graveside overwhelmed with grief.
Yet, the advent of Christ reminds us of God’s desire to enter the bitter and barren places of our lives. The scenes where we long for his presence and yearn for His intervention. And as we wait for his arrival, we do so not with suffocating anxiety but with joyful anticipation. This hope is not wishful thinking or blind optimism but an assurance that God can transform the painful parts of our lives into treasured gifts, testimonies of joy, where He pushes back the despair and brings forth a light of redeeming hope.
During this Christmas season, may the Advent of Christ encourage you to dream again, pray again, and hope again.