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Finding Hope in Unexpected Places this Christmas

December 15, 2011

Each Christmas season we are bombarded with exhortations to be happy, merry, and holly jolly. And for so many it is a time of joy, generosity, and love. But while the radio stations bark at us to be joyful, Christmas can also be a painful reminder that something’s wrong with this world. For those who have lost a loved one this past year, it’s at best a bitter sweet time, and sometimes it’s just bitter. Spending the first Christmas in the tiny living room of your crowded apartment after losing your house to foreclosure can stir up all sorts of emotions, and joy isn’t always one of them.

But if you’ve ever been frustrated, upset, and let down by life, then you’re actually in the right position to understand what Christmas is all about.

Christmas doesn’t make sense in a world where everyone’s happy or everything’s perfect. Christmas is about God stepping into the chaos, into the mess, and doing something about it. The message of Christmas is that God has acted decisively in his Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue a broken, rebellious people and redeem his fallen world.

When we celebrate Christmas each year, we remind ourselves afresh of the hope we have in Christ—not a thin, wishful thinking that dissipates every time we try to grasp it, but a firm, substantial confidence that we can wrap our arms around. A hope that reminds us that God is not done with us, nor with the broken world around us.

But Christmas also reminds us that this hope is often found in unexpected places, and if we don’t listen carefully to the story behind the Christmas story—the story of ancient Israel and God’s promise to rescue a people and redeem his fallen world through their coming King—we might just miss it. For God does not redeem this world by rescuing us out of it and taking the pain away, but by putting on flesh, entering into the world, and taking humanity’s pain, sorrow, and rebellion upon himself.

This is what God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ, came to do when he stepped into this world as an infant over 2,000 years ago. This is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20, when they said: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (vv. 10-12).

For us, it doesn’t readily make sense when God’s sign that he is acting decisively to rescue humanity and put the world back together can be found by peering into a feeding trough in a smelly stable and laying eyes on a newborn baby. But with the Old Testament story of God’s coming redemption in their hearts and the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2-7 in the background, the shepherds knew when they saw the child that dawn had broken through Israel’s long darkness of rebellion, oppression, and shame. And as the angels made clear, this was good news not just forIsrael, but for “all the people” (v. 10)—all nations on earth who will place their faith in Christ.

How does the hope of Christmas—the unexpected hope that comes when God steps into the chaos of our sinful and scattered lives—affect your heart this season? If you’re in Boston’s MetroWest, we invite you to join us this Sunday (Dec. 18) at Westgate Church to explore the unexpected ways that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection bring hope to our fallen world.

Update: The sermon audio is now available here. For text and discussion questions, click here: Luke 2.11-12 Westgate 12.18.11

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