I have a friend who loves Christmas so much she begins on December 26th counting down the days until Christmas arrives again. I have other friends who share their frustrations on social media if they ever see a Christmas tree before the month of December. It’s apparent that within my friend group (at least my wider friend group known as social media friends) there is a wide range of feelings on when and how often Christmas should be included in conversations. Because of this, we’ve often selected certain stories and certain songs to be relegated to “Christmas Time.” They are appropriate to read or sing during the weeks leading up to Christmas, but at other times we push them to the side. This made for an interesting dilemma last week as my daily reading schedule plan presented me with the first few chapters of Isaiah, and I came face to face with one of the great Messianic prophecies.
“For a child has been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests on his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
When I read this passage I immediately thought of Christmas and felt a little guilty reading this passage the first week of September. I love the Christmas season and have grown to appreciate the joy and anticipation of Advent and looking forward to the hope of the Christ child, but September still felt a little early to be enjoying the moment.
Yet I realized, the hope of the Christ child is a hope for the entire year. Why only celebrate hope for a few weeks at the end of each year? Today, I need reminded of the Good News, that this world filled with pain and heartache is not the end. Today, I need reminded that one day the Christ child will come, and establish a kingdom that will last for eternity; a kingdom of peace, justice, and righteousness.
Over the past week I’ve struggled with three separate families who are facing marital difficulties. These are all in different stages from serious struggles to filing for divorce, yet I mourn for all of them. I mourn for broken covenant. I mourn for the pain and turmoil that I know my friends are suffering. I need a word of hope; it comes from the Christ child.
Last week I spent time at the funeral home with friends. I did not know the deceased, but I know members of the family well, and I mourned with them. I mourned that death is a part of the story. I mourned that they were hurting and suffering through a difficult time. I needed hope. I needed hope that the Christ child was born, and the kingdom was established that would have no end. Thus death was not the end. The future was still secure.
Last week the news was filled with earthquakes in Italy, terrorists in Syria, and rape and murder in my own city. They were all reminders that this world, no matter how great, is filled with sin. That sin destroys even the simplest of relationships. That sin causes humans to do the unthinkable. I longed for justice. I longed for righteousness. I needed a reminder that as humans we weren’t left to this world alone, that we are not abandoned. I needed a reminder that God would hear the cries of our misery and act in a way that only God can act. And I found hope in the Christ child. I found hope that a son has been given that will bring endless peace. I found hope in knowing that the kingdom of justice and righteousness will last forever, and that the zeal of the Holy One of Israel will make sure it is accomplished. I needed reminded that this hope that I have given my life to is real.
I found that hope in a prophecy from Isaiah about a child who would be born. And I was reminded that the prophecy is real, it has been accomplished and is being accomplished even today. And I live with anticipation of its glorious final fulfillment.
The Christ child is not just good news at Christmas. The Christ child is good news anytime we see pain and heartache in the world. The Christ child reminds us that even now, God is making all things new. In this we can always hope.