a coming joy

Sun shines through single-paned windows, warming my legs and catching the glitter on our Christmas tree. The shadow of my pen has been chasing curls of words across lined pages this morning as I have been thanking God for Christmas.

The significance of this morning’s sun can be known in context — for the past 10+ days, that ball of fire and gas and warmth has been hidden by what must be enormous clouds to prevent even glimpses of light rays. To say that it has been gray would be an understatement — not only cloudy, but cold and windy and damp. Each morning, I woke up expecting to have the same weather as the day before. The only variation was whether it would be drizzling or only misty, as the moisture has been constant. I wasn’t dreaming of a white Christmas — my wish was for sunshine.

This morning, the sky was orange and blue, as if the clouds and sun and sky knew that it was Christmas.

But of course, the One Who Controls the Weather knew.

What an incredible picture of hope. In the midst of a dark and dreary world, hope can be hard to see. But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Today, we experience the certainty that we have hope.

I know this time of year is not joyful for everyone. One of my close friends is still walking through the recent death of her mom, and I don’t expect that the holidays will be easier for her for many years. Many are mourning the loss of loved ones or the reminder of dashed dreams. Maybe you are looking back at the past year and not finding yourself where you wanted to be at this point in your life. The point of Christmas is not that today should be the happiest day of the year, but that it should be a reminder of the hope we have and the joy that is coming, a joy found only in a Savior.

Over 2,000 years ago, the nation of Israel was desperately longing for the fulfillment of a prophecy that would change their world. Their nation was split into two thanks to political rebellion (thus walking away from God’s plan for them), and that’s when the trouble really began. Both kingdoms were defeated by various pagan nations. God’s own people looked to other kings and peoples and gods for help, yet they were taken into captivity and away from their homes. And when they realized that they had strayed from a God Who protected them and loved them, they cried to Him for help.

The prophecies in Isaiah don’t promise immediate redemption for the people, but they foretell of reconciliation “in that day” – “The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah” (Isaiah 7:17). They had been treated unfairly, yet they were promised a ruler who would rule by God’s Spirit. “With righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:4). He would bring peace and restoration and rescue from oppressors.

Don’t we still long for those things? This broken world oppresses us with hurt from relationships, stress from finances, sadness from death, and discontentment from disillusionment. The things we turn to for completion and happiness never fulfill the way we thought they would, and we find ourselves in need of something more, something we can’t attain on our own. Peace may come in small doses, but it is always destroyed by something new. Almost anyone can relate to the wish for something to change in your life.

Jesus’ birth was the answer to the Israelites’ prayer for a Savior and King. He was the fulfillment of the hope they had been clinging to, yet He wasn’t there to set everything right in this physical world. Jesus Incarnate was here to bring hope for our spiritual need. Christmas morning was the promise that God had heard His peoples’ prayers and was responding in love, but the hope wasn’t fulfilled simply with Jesus’ birth but later through His death. His birth meant that He could atone for our sins with His death thirty years later. 

This Christmas morning, I am reminded that we are still waiting for that Savior. Our eternal destiny is secure, but our world is a mess. Christmas doesn’t make the mess disappear, but reminds me that our hope is found in what Christ will do when He returns. We have hope because of His birth and death, and that hope will be fulfilled at Christ’s return and reign.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:8-9)

Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean everything will be made right, like it is in every Christmas movie: Christmas morning comes, and families are restored. Marriages last happily ever after. Children are safe and sound. Finances are secure. But Christmas means that we can shift our focus from the disappointments of reality to the expectation of His promises. 

Because the gift God gives is better than anything you will find under your tree today, and the hope He offers brings a peace this world has yet to experience.

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a penny for your thoughts

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