Hope is an interesting thing. It’s what keeps us going when all else seems lost. It’s what drives us to try again after we’ve failed. It is the last thing we cling to. Without hope, man begins to die.
The Christmas story as recorded in the Gospels is full of hopeful people. Interestingly though, God had a unique way of responding to their hopes and prayers. Take the nation of Israel, for example. For 400 years, there was silence, not a word of prophecy from God. Weighed down by one oppressing world power or another, with no end in sight. They were hoping and yearning for the promised Messiah who would come to free His people, sit on the throne of David forever, and rule a kingdom with no end. How did God respond? Well, the Messiah was not royalty, of no prominence or power, not even a great military leader. He was the illegitimate child of a poor peasant girl who ended up marrying a poor carpenter and lived in a less-than-glorious little nothing-town called Nazareth.
And what about Mary & Joseph, His parents? As they prepared for the birth of Jesus, all they hoped for was to settle in their little home in Nazareth and raise their son in the quietness of the town. Instead, everything went wrong! Caesar wanted a census, for which they needed to travel many miles through rough terrain, and when they finally got to Bethlehem, there was no room anywhere for them to rest their heads. And of course, to make things unbearably worse, Mary went into labour that very night. You would think that at least for the birth of His own son, God would ensure smooth sailing. But next thing we know, Jesus takes His first nap in a food trough, while being visited by dirty, stinky, rotten-toothed shepherds.
The wise men from the East went to Herod’s royal palace, expectantly hoping to pay homage to the new king they were sure they would find there. Instead, they are directed by a mysterious star to that little speck of dust on the map called Bethlehem, to find a lower-class couple with a poorly dressed little boy.
When Joseph & Mary went to the temple to dedicate Jesus to God, they were hoping for the regular routine of sacrifice that had been done for thousands of families before them. Instead, they became the center of attention as Anna and Simeon began telling people about Jesus, the promised Messiah. And how do you think Mary felt when Simeon told her that “a sword would pierce her own soul also”? I’m sure that’s not what they were hoping to hear!
Do you see a pattern in these people’s stories? They were all hoping for something, praying for something. And then God decided to answer their hopes and prayers in ways that were completely unexpected!
What about you and me? We all hope for things, whether consciously or unconsciously. We pray for and expect the future to turn out a certain way. And then God comes along and answers in very unexpected ways! What do we do when things don’t turn out the way we hoped? Do we question God’s love and goodness, do we become bitter or resentful? Or do we look for the hidden ways, the “silver lining”, in which God blesses us and shows His presence to us. The amazing part about the characters in the Christmas story is that they all praised and worshiped God in response to the unexpected happenings. We can learn a great deal from them. Christmas is about hope, great hope in a Great God. Let’s remember to never give up hope, to always trust that God will come through, and then let’s prepare for the unexpected and praise God with all our might – He deserves our worship. No matter how our lives turn out, no matter what the next bend in the road holds for us, we can rest in God’s promise that He will always take care of us.
Conny considers herself the most fortunate woman on earth. Originally from secular Germany, she became a daughter of her heavenly Daddy as a teenager by His grace. She moved to Ontario, Canada 16 years ago to marry the love of her life, Mark, and they have been blessed with 3 amazing children whom they educate and disciple at home. Together, they passionately pursue Christ and, with imperfect steps, try to follow His example. Over the years, God has been opening their hearts to the plight of the poor and needy, especially orphans. They have embraced fostering local children and are involved in Lifesong for Orphans Canada as orphan advocates. Their home is always open to friends & family, and to anyone who might just come up their driveway. Conny comes alive at the mention of coffee, hosting guests, music, nature, and Bible study.