Hope for Christmas, Part III
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2005 Dec 23
Philip Davies, a lawmaker in England is "annoyed that some town councils have insisted on renaming Christmas lights 'winter lights.'" "Last week Peninsula, one of the largest employment law firms in the country, released the results of a survey of 2,138 employers nationwide indicating that 71 percent of them had banned Christmas decorations from their offices." "John Midgley of the grassroots citizens group Campaign Against Political Correctness, attributed the trend in part to bureaucrats having an unreasonable fear of lawsuits."
In the midst of all the Christmas controversy in England, Warren Throckmorton comments on the controversy here noting that "Schools are hotbeds for these kinds of scuffles. One school near Seattle spent $494 to reprint a cafeteria menu that had Merry Christmas on it. The news account in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said 'a new nutrition services employee mistakenly prepared them (the menus) with the greeting 'Merry Christmas.' ' Apparently, the new nutrition services employee missed an important part of the job orientation." Indeed.
At the same time, as many try to ban Christ from the public square, a trend that is not relegated to this country alone, folk who need it are missing the hope of Christ. Let us look at three more issues concerning the hope we have in Christ.
Fifth, if our hope is secured in the Lord's sinlessness (part two), and indeed it is, then we must affirm that our hope is embodied in the Lord's Son. "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." The Son of Man is the embodiment of our hope. It is this fact, "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19)," that gives us hope. What saith the Scriptures? "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)!'" Hope is in a person: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sixth, of course, it goes without saying that if the embodiment of our hope is the Lord's Son, then our hope is realized in the Lord's presence. Our hope flows from the gift of the Son; our hope flows from the incarnation of God; "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Our hope is grounded in nothing less than the fact that God is with us, for Immanuel means just that, God with us.
Why would God come and be with us? He did so because of His righteousness, out of His love, and for His glory. "[It was Jesus] whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26)." This fact is repeated throughout Scripture.
Further, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:1; 14)." Again, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev. 21:3).'"
How is this dynamic made real to us? Surely it is made real to us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. No doubt this dynamic should lift us when we are down: "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence (Ps. 42:1-5)." Note that it is the presence of the Lord that causes us to praise Him. The Psalmist says "Hope in God." That's our theme! Our hope is in Him and no greater hope do we have than the hope we have when we realize God is with us.
Haven't there been those times in your life when all seemed lost and then, just at the last minute, deliverance came? O beloved, that was the presence and power of God! You will not see every turn of providence; but know that His providence is good. Know that a strong, sovereign hand is guiding you all the way home. When the waves are crashing in around you, Jesus simply says, "Peace, be still." Peace is to be had in Christ. Hope in God! We have hope because God is with us in Christ!
Seventh and ultimately, our hope is sealed in the Lord's salvation. "'And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.' Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us (Matt. 1:21-23).'" Too many place their hope in things that mean nothing: money, fame, prestige, power, religion, etc. Even we who know Christ, from time to time, whether by intent or by ignorance, convey the wrong message with regard to our hope. Too often our hope lies in the things of the world. May we say to a lost and dying world out of the overflow of our hearts, "My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness." Real hope in Christ cannot be suppressed. Let us put it on display.
Throckmorton comments again on the Christmas controversy after pointing out the fact that "holiday" actually means "holyday:" "Here's how I am going to think of it. When folks say 'happy holidays,' they are really wishing me a pleasant holy observance. In my tradition, during December, that would be Christmas. I appreciate that. And I will smile to myself knowing that one cannot completely avoid the reason for the season, even when tolerantly trying to do so." Friends, that is hope that cannot be quelled.
Our hope is in Christ's shed blood for us. Our hope is in His salvation. Our hope is sealed by Him, in Him, and for Him. Our hope is in Christ. That, beloved, is the true meaning of Christmas. May your Christmas be merry because you have found yourself in Christ.
[Scroll Down for Parts One and Two]
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