I love all the Christmas specials that come on about this time of the year… A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, and of course, It’s a Wonderful Life.
Each of these Christmas shows have one thing in common. People, or grinches, lose hope. Then by the end of the movie, they get hope back. I suppose hope is one common theme of Christmas.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey has lost his hope and wants to kill himself. I think many people are just like him. For many, financial problems, family dynamics, fractured relationships, personal problems, or some other disaster has brought them to a place of hopelessness.
But Christmas brings us hope. Jesus’ birth reminds us that God is a God of hope. Christmas is a good time for hope.
God shows up (the incarnation)
In Galatians 4:4-5, Paul tells us that “in the fullness of time” Jesus was born. In other words, at just the right time, God sent His Son as the answer to our primary problem, sin. God’s timing is always right. We may not understand God’s timing in our life, but we can have hope that He is never too late or too early.
Do you remember the movie, Karate Kid. It’s the story of a boy who was bullied by some martial arts kids. So, he asked an older neighbor, Mr. Miagi, to teach him some karate lessons. But every day when he arrived at his house, Mr Miagi had him wax his car, or sand the deck floor, or paint the house. The boy was frustrated that he wasn’t learning karate. Then Mr. Miagi began to attack him and the boy instinctively used some of the moves he had been practicing to defend himself. He had unknowingly been learning karate moves.
I think God sometimes does that to us. He brings situations into our lives that we do not understand. They can be difficult and frustrating and we wonder why God doesn’t do something. But may not be until later in life that we understand God’s timing.
Wait on God. His timing is perfect.
God speaks up (the angelic announcement)
In Luke 2:8-11, God had an angel announce the birth of Jesus to some shepherds. God communicated with man. This wasn’t the only communication that first Christmas. God communicated to Mary, Joseph, even Zachariah (Jesus’ uncle). We can have hope at Christmas because God wants to communicate to us.
Words are powerful. The right words at the right time can give us hope for the future.
Actress Marlo Thomas wanted to change her name so she wouldn’t be compared to her famous dad, Danny Thomas. But her dad sat her down and said, “”I raised you to be a thoroughbred. When thoroughbreds run they wear blinders to keep their eyes focused straight ahead with no distractions, no other horses. They hear the crowd but they don’t listen. They just run their own race. That’s what you have to do. Don’t listen to anyone comparing you to me or to anyone else. You just run your own race.” In her book, The Right Words at the Right Time, she says that those words helped her have a very successful acting career – “Run your own race, Baby”
But you might think that God doesn’t talk to people today. I won’t get into those who claim to hear the audible voice of God, but I think God does still communicate with us. He communicates through the Bible. He also calls people into speaking ministries, like pastors, teachers, and evangelists. He also speaks to our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Take the time to listen to God. The more you are quiet the more you can hear.
God offers Himself up – the purpose of Jesus’ coming (death)
Why did Jesus come to earth? Why was He born in a manger?
Matthew 20:28 tells us that He came to “give his life a ransom for many.” Jesus came to pay for our sins. Jesus was born to die. He willingly gave His life so that you might have eternal life.
How can Jesus’ death pay for our sins?
Suppose your father were a judge. Then suppose you were caught speeding at 100 mph. For sake of illustration, let’s suppose the officer brought you before your father. I would think that you might be happy and sad. Happy because your dad loves you and might let you off. Sad because your dad is a good judge and he won’t let you get away with it.
So the judge, your dad, asks how you plead. You know you were wrong so you plead guilty. Then your father reads the sentence: “I fine you $500 for excessive speeding.” You didn’t get away with it. But then the dad does something unexpected. He comes down from the judges bench, pulls out his checkbook, and writes out a check for $500 and hands it to you. He has pronounced you guilty, given you the appropriate sentence, and now is willing to pay your penalty. Do you accept it?
That is what God has done for you. You are guilty. Your penalty is death, eternal death. So Jesus came and paid for your penalty. On the cross, He took the full judgment of sin for all mankind. Now it is offered to you. Do you accept it?
Because Jesus came to die for us we can have eternal hope. We will all die, but we must all decide where we will go after we die. Because of Jesus we can have eternal life in Heaven if we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That is an amazing hope at Christmas.