Words are powerful. They evoke emotions, cause strife, or bring calm. Words speak life or death, induce laughter or tears. Without words communication would be hindered, thoughts unexpressed. At Christmas we use words to sings songs, share stories, and send sentiments to family and friends. And, there are certain words and phrases that are even exclusive to Christmas.
Words like …
Tis the season!
(I could go on, and on, and on!)
But there are certain words of Christmas that have a greater depth of meaning and express the true heart of the season; yet like the phrases above, come tainted by empty clichés, overuse, and worn-out phrasing.
Expressions like …
The Hope of Christmas
Peace on Earth
Joy to the World
The season of light
Love in manger
We’ve all heard these phrases, but can anyone articulate well what each means? Over the next few weeks, I’d like us to attempt to infuse life back into these well-know and well-rehearsed words and expressions of Christmas, so that the wonder and true meaning of the season will last, not just for a season but throughout our year!
Let’s begin with The Hope of Christmas.
Hope is defined as a strong expectation, a strong desire for something to happen, a feeling of trust. Hope is a powerful word. With hope, comes encouragement and the desire to persevere. The ability to wait expectantly infuses a person with life, energy, and often the “want to” when growing weary. A life without hope is a life of defeat, doubt, and dread.
But Jesus – Jesus, the baby in the manger, a promise given in the Garden of Eden after The Fall, ushered in the hope of forgiveness, abundance, and everlasting life.
We see the hope of Christ’s advent throughout the Bible. In Genesis 6, God provided salvation from the great flood through the ark, which was a picture of the saving work that the coming Messiah would one day bring. Within that hardened, pitch-stained, worn and cracked vessel, we see a foreshadowing of Jesus, our Rescuer and Redeemer. The One who loved the world so much that He would one day satisfy His Father’s wrath and our sin as He hung on a hardened, blood-stained, old rugged cross.
Yes, hope, the hope for a redeemer is the essence of Christmas.
We also see hope in the provision of a ram at just the right moment in Genesis 22, when Isaac was asked to sacrifice his only son to provide an offering to the Lord. It was at Mount Morriah that we see the secure hope of God’s provision for His people, a hope that He would begin in a cradle and complete on a cross.
Yes, hope, hope for a provider is the essence of Christmas.
Hope is seen again in the Tabernacle that pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ and the continual presence of God with His people. God never intended for His people to journey alone. His presence was always a promise, and it was fulfilled when Immanuel, God with Us breathed His first breath, cried His first tear, and looked His mother, Mary, in the face for the first time. Did Mary fully understand in that moment that her tear-stained eyes looked straight into the face of God in a manger? Did Mary really know that after nurturing and loving that precious baby boychild, she would one day stare at Him again through tear-stained eyes hanging from a cross.
Yes, hope, hope for His presence is the essence of Christmas.
Hope is, indeed, at the heart of Christmas, and Christ’s coming marked the first visible reality of hope fulfilled. Hope for salvation, hope for provision, and hope for a presence – that is Jesus.
But how do we live out Hope at Christmas and travel with it through the year? We live our lives in such a way that we exude trust in the babe in the manger and the King on the Cross. We live our lives looking unto Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We live our lives practicing the presence of Jesus, the boy turned man who suffered and died, so that His continual presence would come and live inside of us.
Yes, hope, not just a word or rote phrase that we rattle off like a jolly ho, ho, ho. Real hope makes a difference in life, and we have a choice. We can ponder this hope we have in our heart, or we can give it away by sharing our stories with others.
Who in your sphere of influence needs words of hope in their life this holiday? Will you use your Words of Christmas to shape and share a gift with someone who needs this season to be more than a sappy sentiment or trite turn of phrase? Infuse the blessing of hope into your friend, your neighbor or co-worker. That will be the best gift you can give!