Hope, Wonder, & Kindness {reflections for Christmastime}

Each November, I sit down to plan our activities for the Christmas season. I meticulously plan our cookie baking, present wrapping, book reading, and movie watching. My boys would be very disappointed if I forgot to include our traditional “camp out” by the Christmas tree. We haul out the air mattress and blankets and get cozy next to the twinkling lights.

Even me, with my bone-tired body, worn out from all the holiday festivities, enjoy the magical feeling of sleeping next to the tree. The dark living room, the slight whistling of the radiator heating, and the exhausted snores of my kids make the lights shine a little brighter.

We most often experience wonder when we spot the light in the darkness no matter how faint it might be. That light is God’s handiwork - the things that take us by surprise, that shock us, that make us stop and savor the moment (before one of our children needs us again, of course).

Since we’re right in the middle of the Christmas season, I couldn’t help but think of a familiar passage in the book of Luke in the Bible and one of the main characters there – Mary, the mother of Jesus. After giving birth to the Savior of the universe, she stops to wonder at all that has happened in a matter of a few hours.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

In spite of the ridicule she received at her pregnancy (that somehow wasn’t Joseph’s), the exhausting trip to Bethlehem, the dirty stable doubling as her maternity suite, she pondered and treasured the wonder of the moment. She saw God’s handiwork twinkling beautifully in the dusty darkness around her. This was God’s Son! She was the mother of the Messiah and she had angels and worshipping shepherds to prove it! She didn’t know the details of the days ahead of her, but the wonder she felt at all unknown around her brought hope to her heart.

Hope is the confidence that the light will bring life.

The holidays are supposed to be filled with hope, right? Just like the beautiful gifts we wrap, we tear into Christmas with excitement but instead we find disappointment and pain. Sometimes traditions that we hold dear fall through. Sometimes we’ve recently experienced the death of a loved one and the empty spot they’ve left is too much to bear. The raw emotions of broken relationships are magnified during a time that is supposed to be filled with peace on earth. The to-do lists, gift giving, and Pinterest crafts of Christmas simply overburden us!

I speak from experience. I am emerging from a season spent carrying a heavy burden. Over the years, I had learned to function on a day-to-day basis without too many tears, but I would be lying to say that special times of the year weren’t especially hard! To know that yet another birthday or Thanksgiving was passing without a solution was incredibly painful.

I want to introduce you to another woman who experienced great ongoing pain. Her short story is also in the Bible in the book of Matthew squeezed in the middle of Jesus’ healing throughout Israel.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."

Can you imagine how broken this woman must have been? 12 years! I’m sure she had tried every doctor and home remedy for this bleeding problem. Her hope, if she had any left at all, must have been at an all time low. But she had heard of Jesus’ reputation. She had watched in wonder as he had healed and restored her neighbors and this gave her the glimmer of hope she needed to act in faith and reach out to touch his robe. The story continues:
Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.

This aspect of the story is even more amazing than this woman’s faith. In the midst of a pressing crowd, Jesus recognized this woman's desperation, and acknowledged her need for healing. Her hope wasn’t just wishful thinking because she had placed it in Someone who could actually do something about it.

I couldn't fix the brokenness in my life either, but because I had seen and wondered at God’s handiwork in other areas of my life, I knew that I could put my hope in His ability to handle this seemingly hopeless situation too.

That's why I was blown away when earlier this year, God miraculously and beautifully restored what I thought would be lost forever. The woman with the blood issue and I must have experience very similar levels of wonder at the goodness of Jesus!

It's important to realize that the wonder and hope we now have shouldn’t just stay inside our own hearts. When it overwhelms us, we should be motivated to share that light with others..

Have you ever experienced the social awkwardness of talking to someone for a while and realizing that you have no idea what their name is or even if you've ever been formally introduced? Too much time has passed to suddenly say, "I'm Rachel! What's your name?"

I want to introduce you to one other person before that awkwardness happens.

His name is Jesus Christ.

He is God who put on human flesh in order to live among us. He lived His 33 years here on earth without a single misstep or misbehavior. He displayed His heavenly love and power to those around Him by healing the sick (like we already mentioned), raising the dead, and mending broken hearts.
He goes by many names including two that we’ve talked about already – Light and Life.
He was falsely accused of wrongdoing and faced the punishment reserved for the worst of criminals – a gruesome death on a cross. His final breath was taken bearing the heavy weight of the punishment for sins committed by every man, woman, and child throughout all of time. That includes you and me!
His story doesn't end with His death, though. After three days in an Israeli tomb, He rose again conquering that death and sin. His work was finished!

In the book of John Jesus says, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

The relationship I have with Jesus is not an exclusive friendship. In fact, His work on the cross was completed for you too.

The beautiful thing about His love is the fact that you don't need to introduce yourself to Him. He knows everything about you already! He is both your Creator AND Rescuer and He proved the depth of His love for you through His sacrifice on your behalf. He made a way for you to have a relationship with a holy God (which could never be done by your own efforts).
I John 1:9 says that if you confess your sin, your brokenness, and your need for a Rescuer, He is faithful and just to forgive you.
The kindest gift I could give you this Christmas season, and you could in turn pass on to others is an introduction to the One who is The Friend. He offers you the gift He purchased for you. He offers true wonder and unending hope. I pray that if you haven’t, you personally accept it today

One final reminder, being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean that we are exempt from pain, sickness, or trouble in our lives. We live in a broken world! It DOES mean that in the midst of the darkness in our culture and homes we can have an unexplainable peace, joy, and hope that will last well beyond Christmas!