O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
I’m sure all of us hold many hopes for the future. Dreams for what we hope it holds. Hopes and desires for our families, for work, for our passions. We can also carry fears for the future. Of what could happen, fears of what we think lies ahead. It’s like a coin – two sides – hopes on one side, fears on the other.
It’s why I love the line in the carol “O little town of Bethlehem” which says
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” A baby, born in the little town of Bethlehem, is the answer to all our hopes and fears. We can trust our thoughts of the future – whether they are hopes or fears to Jesus.
And when we entrust our hopes and fears to Him, we will find rest. We will find peace.
“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5)
It’s that time of year where most workplaces or social groups are engaging in Secret Santas. Those fun occasions when you pick a present and have no idea whether you’d end up with a beautiful Christmas decoration or a christmas collar for a cat (that you do not have…), or even a bag of manure (which as it turned out was a good choice for the avid gardener). The true gift of Christmas fortunately has no such wildcard aspect to it!
In the Christmas Carol O Little Town of Bethlehem is the line “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.” The gift of Christmas is that God answered this prayer – He sent His Son, to abide with us. That we would have the gift of receiving Jesus in our hearts – abiding with us.
Let the truth that our Lord Emmanuel abides with us today take on a fresh and deeper revelation this Christmas.
Today the season of Christmas seems to start just as the days in this part of the hemisphere are growing longer and warmer. Ironically malls and streets transform themselves into snowy, wintery scenes of Christmas Trees, Santa’s grotto and sleighs filled with presents. And with the decorations come the carols – “Rudolph the Red nosed reindeer”, “Sleigh bells ring”…”I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”.
Interspersed between these secular carols though, do come the traditional carols such as “O Holy Night” and “Joy to the World”. But these songs are more than just a nice story, a fairy tale – these Carols tell the story – the true story of Christmas.
A carol is a song of praise or joy. They have been sung in churches since the 13th Century. Delightful and happy as the carols like “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” are, they can’t compete with the wonder, the majesty and the true joy that the Carols telling of Christ’s birth convey.
In “O Holy Night’ we catch a glimpse of the amazing wonder and joy that is indeed Christmas. A joy that goes beyond the tinsel, the gifts and all the trimmings and reaches into our souls. For it speaks of how with that first Christmas came hope for us all.
“Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
Christmas is the celebration of the God’s amazing plan to come to rescue a world that was broken, hurt and lost. God sent His only Son as a demonstration of the amazing love that He has for each one of us. By His Grace, His unmerited and deserved favour, God paved the way home for us by this babe in a manger that we celebrate tonight. The Son of God – stepped from Heaven into our world – our realities – to bring us life! He came as a vulnerable baby to live amongst us.
As Max Lucado once wrote “This is the heart of the Christian message. God became a human. He was born in an ordinary stable to ordinary parents. But His was an extraordinary purpose…He came to take us to Heaven. Jesus’ desire was singular – to bring His children home“
Christmas is not just celebrating the birth of a baby. Christmas is celebrating how God came to earth to dwell among us as a man. It is one part of an incredible journey of reconciliation, hope and love by our God that had begun before time in the halls of Heaven. You see, this baby in the manger grew to become a man – but no ordinary man. He came to bring us life. He came to bring forgiveness. And ultimately He came to lay down His life for us and vanquish death by rising from the dead.
The wonder of Christmas that we celebrate, is not only the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is the knowledge that this baby is our Saviour and that He did indeed lay down His life for us, and He did indeed rise from the dead.
“The night the baby was born the Cross was already raised and the stone was rolled away” (Louie Giglio)
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
“Glory to the newborn King!”
The carols that sing of our Saviour’s birth are indeed a song of praise!