I would venture that all of us are here because somehow, some way, being here tonight represents the Hope of Christmas for each of us.
The Hope of Christmas that I speak of is about our deepest longings for a better world to come for ourselves and for all of those we love.
Our Hope of Christmas is that the sick will be healed, in body, mind and spirit.
Our Hope of Christmas is that the hungry will be fed and prosperity will fill the land.
Our Hope of Christmas is for peace on earth, for good will among women and men – and children – and true justice for all people everywhere.
Our Hope of Christmas is for things we have never seen.
Ours is an outlandish hope.
Maybe that kind of hope is a little hard to see right now. Maybe someone you know is ill or troubled. Maybe there is something weighing on you.
This morning, as I was coming into the building, I stopped at the black mailbox you may have noticed on the corner. It is actually a “prayer box” that one of our university students, Emily, put up last year. The box has a pen and index cards, and people write how they would have us pray for them.
I took out the cards this morning, and I was struck by how much people are grasping for hope.
Let me read you a few:
“Please pray for income to support my family.”
“I pray business picks up for me,” written on the back of cab driver’s card.
“For the one’s that are really the forgotten ones,” written on a card by a homeless man, Jeff.
“Peace for everyone.”
And this one…
“Can God please accept me as I am?”
These prayers, these dreams, these longings of the heart and mind are exactly why we are here this night – exactly why we must speak of the Hope of Christmas.
“Hope” is a curious word. My dictionary defines it as “A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.”
Where do we find this kind of hope? Where can we place confident expectations for fulfillment on this Christmas Day?
I think by our being here tonight, we are declaring loud and clear something miraculous about where we find our Hope.
All of our hopes, all of our dreams, are embodied in this small baby whose birth we celebrate tonight. We are drawn together because of that one fact, the birth of Jesus, the anointed One, the Christ, into our world.
His birth changes everything in our world.
What an amazing faith this is – to see all of the hopes of the world in a tiny baby born in as humbly as a human being could be born – in a stable.
As familiar as the story is, please hear this one basic fact of Christmas:
Two-thousand years ago, God chose to be with us born as a helpless baby and not as a majestic Zeus-like figure. That was surprising then as it is surprising now.
He was born to an unwed, very young mother: Miriam – we would call her “Mary.”
She named her son “Yesous,” or Joshua – and we would later call him “Jesus.” He was born in scandal, and lived much of his life violating religious rules.
That people would see in this child the divine is nothing short of a miracle, for they were certainly experiencing an idea of God that was as far from a their expectations of a messiah as could be imagined.
No gloss or theologizing can cover up how radical a concept of the divine this is, then or now.
Some of the prophets of old expected a regal king who would bring righteousness to earth with a mighty sword and thunderbolts.
Some of our modern-day would-be prophets expect the same thing: a warrior who will vanquish every foe.
But we get Jesus, born in poverty and out of wedlock. We get the Prince of Peace.
What kind of God is this who would come to earth in such a place under such conditions? A God who is with us – Emmanuel – that is the meaning of the name Emmanuel – the One who lives with us, all of us, everywhere, no matter who we are, or where we come from.
God’s supreme demonstration of love for us is coming to earth as one of us. In this one ultimate divine act, this creator God shares with us our difficulties and our deepest hopes.
Jesus tells us to give him our burdens, hand over our worries – because he loves us that much.
This Savior born this night will carry us even when we don’t see it.
And this Savior of ours walks with all of us, and then does something more:
This Savior of ours asks us to be partners in bringing heaven to earth.
We can begin by having a relationship with this God, by truly knowing the Christ who walks among us not only tonight, but every night and every day.
This Savior of ours is telling us to spread his love in the world; not to retreat but to get out there, and live a life worthy of the extravagant love our Creator has for us this Christmas.
This Savior of ours places hope in us even when we don’t have much hope in ourselves.
Whether you have been coming here for 50 years, or whether this is the first time you have been here, don’t let Christmas end for you tonight.
Join in our Communion in a few minutes, for it is the first meal of Christmas, and a present to you and to me.
And then when you leave here tonight, keep the Hope of Christmas alive.
Look for something truly unexpected this year, something new in your life, something new in the world. Look for the Hope of Christmas every single day.
Have the courage to let the Hope of Christmas change your life – and then have the courage to change the world around you. When you do, you will be keeping the Hope of Christmas alive within you forever.
And the angel said to them: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” AMEN
Photo of Pulsar PSR J0108-1431 by NASA.