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Hope. We all need a little hope and Christmas is supposed to be that time even the worst critic might find themselves with a little pep in their step. But this year, this year I think even I may need more than the usual hot cocoa and song on the radio to get me in the “Christmas spirit”. With Christmas days away I find my heart heavier than usual. Stereotypically this time of year for me is full of wonder and excitement with the bustle of all thing’s sparkly lights and sweet sprinkles. But as 2021 comes to a close, the slight gleam of hope many of us held on to, even as our hearts still stung from the not-so-distant disappointments that were Christmas 2020, seems to begin to fade completely from our sight.

The difficulties we faced in 2020 at least came with a promise that the new year would be different, better. It had to get better. Right? But for many of us the sorrow of the year gone by just seemed to morph into further plights and failed possibilities of what we had hoped would turn things around, physically, financially, in our homes and schools and country. The exhaustion of the souls around me seems to hang in the air just as thick as the virus everyone is trying to avoid. Joy and smiles are lacking, and the usual anticipation of this holiday season seems to be a forgotten thing of the past.

For many, this Christmas only amplifies the hardships of the past 2 years. It magnifies the loss of the loved one, the family they can’t be with because of sickness or restrictions. The failed business that had to close due to the pandemic, or the bills that are still piling up from the hospital stay that saved the life of a loved one, or the ones that didn’t. How can a time of year that is supposed to be a celebration be enjoyed when so many of us are grieving the expectations we had for a very Merry Christmas that seems anything but?

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

I have heard this passage of scripture from Luke chapter two over and over since as long as I can remember. Even in the last month my boys have quoted it daily as part of their scripture memory verse for school. It wasn’t until their Christmas chapel at school yesterday, as I heard it repeated over and over during the message, that it finally clicked. It finally got personal, as if God whispered into my sad and fearful heart, “don’t you see Emily, this good news is for you! This joy is for you! This hope is for you! Fear NOT!” Tears immediately came to my eyes as I realized that even as a believer in Jesus, I had missed out on making the most incredible message of hope in the bible personal to me.

I had read this passage so much I never took time to realize that when the angels came to tell the shepherds about Jesus’ birth, that news was not just for them, it was for all of us too. That when the angel said, “Don’t be afraid!” It was said for my heart right here and now. It was spoken over the dread I carry for an unknown tomorrow completely out of my control and the smallest worry I can’t seem to let go of. And when the angels continued with, “it will bring great joy to all people”, they really meant ALL, even us, 2000+ years later. That joy is for you and me to cling to with everything we have despite the fear we may feel or the pain we may experience because we have hope found in the birth of Jesus! The hope we find in the arrival of a great and powerful Savior sent to save His people from their sins was not just to bring wonder and excitement for those shepherds on that glorious night, it was equally meant to bring hope to our hearts here in what feels like such uncertain and hopeless times.

For so many of you reading this, Christmas this year is not going to be what you hoped it would. Its great expectations have been shattered by another year of heart ache. And because of it, many of you are hurting, and for that, my heart aches too. But I pray, that just as Jesus came along side me in chapel yesterday and breathed fresh life on these beautiful words. That you too will feel His presence close to your heart as you remember this promise is for you as well. Speak this message of hope over your broken and desperate situation, whatever it may be. Jesus came to a fallen and despairing world to gift it the only hope and joy it would ever be able to find. We will never find it here in our planning, and gifting and praying for a simpler tomorrow. Life here on earth was never promised to be easy, that’s why God sent His Son to come and rescue us and gift us the greatest and most magnificent life preserver there ever was. And in doing so, He gave us everything we need to cope in a fallen world that constantly lets us down. So even though we don’t know what tomorrow will bring and our Christmas is half hazard and gloomy, much like our year, let us once again find joy in the hope of our Savior, come to walk with us, personally, even in the dark, damp and forgotten places of our lives.

Don’t be afraid, the good news is for you. The Messiah is here! And His promise of hope will never fail, even when our expectations go unmet and the promises of tomorrow wear thin. Hold on to Jesus this Christmas, He is already holding on to you.

Merry Christmas, love E

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