“So we do not lose heart, Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen by to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
As we look forward to Christmas, let us not be a people who come to Christmas Day saying, “Wow, Christmas sure snuck up on me this year!” Let us be a people… let us be families… who have not just prepared for Christmas by ordering our presents with enough time to spare; but let us be people who have prepared our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.
The nation of Israel in Jesus’ day was a land of darkness. They were ruled by Rome, a nation who prayed to and trusted in a number of gods, while rejecting Yahweh as the one true God. Jesus’ ministry itself showed us that even the religious leaders of his day were corrupt. Years earlier, the prophet Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:6). The people in Jesus’ day were living with very little hope. They had been given promises of a Messiah, but had little trust that God would actually be faithful to provide what he had promised.
I imagine the hopelessness of the people led them to not even know what they needed from their Messiah. They knew they wanted freedom from Rome, but what many didn’t realize is how much they needed freedom from their own sin and depravity.
Today, the leading cause of disability in the United States is depression. About 6.7% of the population ages 18 years or older are currently suffering through a “major depressive disorder.” Depression is itself hopelessness. Approximately 25% of children ages 13 through 18 years old are currently dealing with an anxiety disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse continue to be major problems in this nation, including in our own city of Wausau. The political scene in the U.S. today is divided with people from both the right and the left demonizing people who do not see eye to eye with them. With all of these problems, people are constantly searching for hope. Wherein can they put their trust and hope to bring them happiness and satisfaction?
Imagine you were stranded out in the middle of the desert. You’ve been without food and water for days, and you are starting to panic. You’ve been wandering toward what you think is a river valley, but have come to realize that at the bottom of that valley is nothing but sand and rock. You are devastated. From there, you climb to the other side of the valley and to the top of a ridge that you hope will give you a bigger, 360 degree view.
As you come to the top of that ridge, you see something that looks out of place. Oddly enough, it is a small table with a big glass of water, an orange, some beef jerky, a bowl of nuts, and a granola bar; enough food and water to satisfy you and lead you to be hopeful that there is more nearby. When you look down at the table, you see the word “more” written on the table with an arrow in the distance. You don’t see anything in the distance other than a vast horizon, but you’ve seen all you need to see. You’re walking in the direction of the arrow because it must contain more food and water than what you’ve just been given. Your hopes are alive!
This is precisely the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. When Christ came to earth, he didn’t overthrow Rome like people had hoped. He did, however, overthrow two of the people’s greatest enemies. He overthrew Satan and he overthrew man’s flesh, leading to true hope! The life, death, and resurrection of Christ is that meal on that ridge. It is that sign pointing you forward, showing you that more is coming. “These light and momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
This Christmas season may we recognize the true hope we have in Christ Jesus. May we recognize the freedom that we are now living in as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. And may that freedom we now experience in part remind us of the ultimate freedom we will experience when Christ returns and we are with God for eternity. In the midst of this present darkness, do not lose heart!