Christmas hope

The Standard December 11, 2019

Each year after the Christmas Eve candlelight service we as a family watch the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The movie begins with two angels discussing the need for intervention on behalf of a man named George Bailey. Bailey is smart and talented but gives up his lifelong dream to go to college and to study engineering after the surprising death of his father.  He gives his younger brother the college fund and stays in what he considers their small, uninteresting hometown to lead the family’s building and loan. After getting married and having several children Bailey sees the movie’s antagonist, the greedy old Henry F. Potter, buying up almost all property in town and getting richer as practically a slumlord. Meanwhile, Bailey’s old house is in constant need of repair and his income is quite limited although he works long hours to make homeownership a reality for many average, hardworking people. Finally, when his uncle’s absentmindedness puts the building and loan’s very existence at risk, George reaches the end of his rope.

Watching from heaven, an angel named Franklin says that a man on earth needs their help. Clarence, another angel, asks if the man is sick. Franklin replies, “No. Worse. He’s discouraged.” In fact, Bailey reaches a point where he almost has lost all hope.

It would be hard to underestimate the importance of hope. It is something that can keep us putting one foot in front of the other even during the worst of times. In the Old Testament we read of the anticipation the Israelites had for the promised Messiah and the hope of a new kind of kingdom being ushered in by this “Root of Jesse.”

“Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:5-6) “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:10)

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ (Isaiah 40:1-5)  “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Today we all can have the magnificent hope which the birth of the Messiah brings. The fulfillment of God among us is here. “’She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:21-23)

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