Christmas is coming. I’m sure you have noticed. One of the early signs is, of course, the marketing and the Christmas gifts on display, and I am an absolute sucker for them. I love the idea that everyone is getting ready to share gifts as a sign of love. I do worry, of course, about people going into debt or becoming excessively materialistic, but I choose to focus on the positive.
Gift giving at this time, of course, reflects the tradition of St Nicholas, the gifts brought to the newborn Jesus by the Magi, and the understanding of Christ as an undeserved grace to the world being demonstrated to those that we love.
The other sign of Christmas that brings me great joy is the Christmas lights. I enjoy walking my dog and seeing all the work that people have put into decorating their houses with nativities, stars and all the other decorations. They strike me as a very visible symbol of hope – a light that shines brightest in the darkness that speaks mostly to those who are not inside. This is a radical part of the Christmas message – that even in the dark times there is hope.
Hope may seem like a strange thing to describe as radical in the context of Christmas, where every child has hope, perhaps for a new game; a new ball; a new, whatever the latest, coolest thing is. Christian hope, however, is different, in that it is not a hope for self, or even a hope for someone we know, but rather it is a hope that goes wider. We hope that there will be a revealing of the kingdom of God, which was greatly demonstrated in the birth of a small child to an unwed mother, who were members of a subject nation.
This sign of hope, speaks directly against the language of fear that is so often uttered in the world. Think about how many times we are told or encouraged to fear others, and then seek a reason to hope instead, because hope is a more powerful fuel for transformation than fear can ever be.
Fear will encourage you to remain still. Hope will always call you to move forward.