Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The thrill of hope

Weary is a word I've thought about a lot. It brings to mind not just tired, but worn out--worn down. I love Christmas time because it is so often true that at this time of year, like at no other, a weary world chooses to rejoice.

The world is often a discouraging and difficult and ugly place.  In the places that I call "home", there have been multiple violent murders in the last few months.  On the other side of the country, a classroom full of first graders was mowed down by a lunatic with a gun.  Around the world, far more people live under oppression and in war zones than live in peace and liberty.  We all have our various, wearying challenges in life, be they physical ailments, financial trouble, broken relationships or some other such burden.  Life is exhausting.

But yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. . .he appeared and the soul felt its worth.  That light shines clear and bright anywhere a soul remembers the true definition of charity--not a mere transfer of funds, but a Christlike love, where both giver and receiver are enriched and enlightened.

Too often we make the same mistake that many of Christ's disciples made during his earthly ministry and mortal death--we think that he has failed us because he hasn't removed our earthly troubles, the things that too often weary us.  We forget that he has not come to free us from Ceasar, but from sin and death.  We must still overcome challenges, we must still learn patience and discipline.  We must still learn to turn to him to lighten our load or strengthen our shoulders as we learn to trust that his law is love and his gospel is peace.

The steady downward march of the world is not evidence of the Savior failing or abandoning us--it is fulfillment of prophecy indicating that it is not long yet before his final victory.  Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease.  That time is coming, and in that day only light will remain. But for all the troubles and difficulties, we can choose to live in that light now.

Most epic stories have a similar arc: things start out light and promising, and then troubles and challenges start to come, until before long the world has become terribly dark and frightening, and the main players are all on the verge of losing hope because the task seems impossible.  And then the seemingly impossible happens: good triumphs, evil is defeated, and the world is full of light and joy again.  Instinctually, we know that that is exactly how the real story, the story we're all in, goes:  a baby born, a child raised, with wonderful promise, with great hope.  He teaches amazing doctrine and performs miracles, despite the corrupt and sometimes downright cruel culture around him.  But then comes a moment when it appears to those around him that the evil men have won: their Lord is slain, and the very earth groans and quakes with grief.  How could any good come of this?  How could they go on?  What hope was there left to them? As they weep in grief, confusedly trying to figure out a way forward, suddenly their Lord appears to them--he has risen.  That baby, so full of hope and promise, has become the Resurrected Christ.  He didn't slay the evil men who murdered him, he conquered evil itself.  He conquered death, never to die again, offering us the promise of a life eternal, a life that is always full of light, joy and love.

Remember that in your darkest nights, at times when the world seems daunting and it feels as though hope is foolish: the story has long been written, there is no doubting the outcome.  Good always triumphs, evil always loses and no matter how dark the night, the sun will always rise.  One day, it will never set. Look for the rays of light that point to that perfect day and believe in Good.

Merry Christmas.

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