It is Christmas once again. As with other commemorative dates, it goes by with the cheery atmosphere and the joyous celebrations that come with it. But there is something more to Christmas than just a fleeting season of outward display and festivity. There is more to coming together, gift-giving and merrymaking. It is also a moment to be nourished by the glad tidings it brings. Christmas is the good news of hope, then and now.
News of hope was then told in the story Jesus' birth. It was a long and exhausting journey of a poor family from Nazareth to Judea to register for census. Mary was expecting her firstborn. They were unable to find a place, but a stable. There, the baby was born. Out of nowhere, unknown shepherds prompted by angels came and rejoiced with them. And from afar, wise men led by the star came rendering precious gifts to the newly born child. This was the first Christmas which has been told and retold across generations.
The first Christmas was an event of hope. The poor family went through hardships and desperate moments as they faced great deal of discomfort, helplessness in times of great need, darkness, rejection, isolation and threat of the unknown. Too far from Galilee, they had nobody to help them in Bethlehem, Judea. By all means, it was a wrong moment to travel and be away from home. It was the worst moment for a baby to be born. But that was how the Son of God was born. And that is how hope is born.
Hope springs from uncertainty, ambiguity, exhaustion, darkness and helplessness. When life´s road gets untraceable and horizons are out of sight, no matter how blurred the vision is and how tear-soaked eyes are, hope helps us see. It helps us see beyond limits and stirs us toward what lies ahead. Life may at times be like a forlorn stable as things seem to be only getting messy and nobody really cares. But hope is like a choir of angels trumpeting joy and support to warm our heart and make us feel being in company with dear ones. When all around is darkness and deep within is an ebbing will to live, hope is a star that shines through the dark night of the soul with its precious gifts of inner peace and trust in the source of light. Hope often comes forth in moments of despair and desolation. It surges where there is failure, pain and loss. It is an assurance that there is something greater than all these. Hope is a certainty that someone has power over any and all forces that pull us down.
The first Christmas then was a story of utter trust in God whose designs and actions are unknown and unexpected. The same Christmas story retold today is an invitation to take part in retelling God´s story. As it was, hope was proof that God was once born in a manger. As it is and will always be, hope is proof that God is born in our hearts.