Solid Hope in a Troubled World

Reading: Isaiah 9.6
It's Christmas time! But we can't go to Bethlehem! Sadly again this year Bethlehem seems to be a hiding-place and hunting-ground for terrorists. It's just not the place to be visiting at the moment.

It's Christmas time! We had hoped the new century would bring in medical advances to eliminate many of the world's health threats. We had hoped for world-wide co-operation to eliminate hunger and poverty. There is much good work is being done, but we don't have the easy optimism of a few years ago. Our mood has been turning to despair.

It's Christmas time! UN weapons inspectors are in Iraq trying to determine whether that country has weapons of mass destruction. Could the world be heading towards war? Some of us have viewed with alarm what has been happening in eastern Indonesia. Militant Islamists have been working hard to eliminate Christianity from those provinces. With the Bali bombings on October 12 their violence has touched our nation. Suddenly conflict seems perilously close to our own shores. Where will it all end?

It's Christmas time! We aren't here to close our eyes to world events. Christmas isn't a "let's-pretend" game that ignores the realities that trouble us for the rest of the year. But it is a time to rediscover solid hope in a despairing world. That solid hope is found in what happened over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem.

The prophet Isaiah foretold the event - "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Is. 9.6). He isn't just a "peaceful prince," but "the Prince of Peace." The Child to be born would be the only one who can bring peace.

It's Christmas time! Centuries had passed. A foreign power now ruled the land. A census was ordered - to enable more taxes to be collected, so it is believed. Mary and Joseph came down from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Jesus was born, but he had to be laid in a manger - a cattle feeding-box - because the inn was already full. Shepherds, minding their sheep at night heard the angelic announcement, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk. 2.10-11). Then a whole choir of angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests" (v. 14).

It's Christmas time! Two thousand years later we are singing, "Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die: born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth." "I love Thee, Lord Jesus... Be near me, Lord Jesus..." "O come, all ye faithful... O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord." "Joy to the world, the Lord is come - let earth receive her King!"

The very words we have been singing have included the call to respond to what God has done. Come! Receive the King! Believe in him! Adore him! If we ignore him, it's little wonder we get our world into such a mess - and then we have the hide to blame God for not looking after us!

It's Christmas time! A time of new opportunities! A time for new beginnings! Make sure to go to the church of your choice at Christmas. But for your own sake and the sake of your children and the sake of our world, please go further than that and become regularly and actively involved. Trust in Jesus as your Saviour, Christ the Lord! Translate that faith into action every day of the year. O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

You came,
not just for Christmas,
but for always.

You lived,
and healed,
and taught,
and died,
not just for Christmas,
but for always.

You live again,
not just for Christmas,
but for always.

You seek
my trust,
my allegiance,
my life,
not just for Christmas,
but for always.

It's Christmas time - Christ-mas time, the birth-of-Christ time! In Christ there's solid hope in a troubled world!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Combined Carols, Home Hill, 8 December 2002
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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