Who Am I? pt. 1

the following has been adapted from material by Neil T Anderson

Since you are a saint in Christ by God’s calling, you share in Christ’s inheritance. That which is true of Christ is now true of you, because you are in Christ. It’s part of your identity. Here are 36 verses through the New Testament that proclaim who you are in Christ. Read this list aloud. Read it often.

  1. I am the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)
  2. I am the light of the world (Matt 5:14)
  3. I am a child of God (John 1:12) Continue reading Who Am I? pt. 1

Advent: Jesus

by Pamela Naugler

 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah, a prophet in the Old Testament, spoke about the period in time when the tables turned, when God decided that now is that time.  The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and history would be forever changed by His work of creating a baby in Mary’s womb. God stepped into earth to rescue His people. This is the wonder of Christmas.

God’s plan was put into action: Jesus coming to earth to save us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  Through Jesus, God offers His grace and freedom.  Although I have known Him all of my life, my journey with Jesus has not been straightforward.

When I was very pregnant with my third daughter, a very close friend prayed for me on a consistent basis and spoke encouraging and prophetic words to me. She also strongly encouraged me to talk to my doctor and I was terrified. I was terrified of admitting so many things hidden deep in my heart. I was terrified of drugs that might impact my baby. I was terrified of admitting failure. Darkness veiled my mind and anxiety was a very real and physical thing. I faced the possibility of another long and difficult childbirth, if past experience was any indication, and then the reality of having a newborn. I knew what it was like to have a newborn and another child. Now I would have to balance the needs of two small children and a newborn… how was I to do it?  I hadn’t slept through the night in years. And there was the added stress of our business and paycheques that were at times few and far between. There were prayers for groceries and unpaid bills.  Sometimes the stress was crushing.

Sitting in the doctor’s office, my doctor intuitively asked me how I was doing. Tears began flowing down my cheeks.

My doctor listened and even hugged me. She took action. Though she encouraged me to take anti-depressant medication, she left the decision with me. She called my husband, called the Mental Health clinic, told me to contact my church and get help immediately.  There was no single, quick, easy answer… except to ask for help and receive it. I had to go for counselling, to learn how to take little steps forward. I came to the end of being able to hold myself up and received the support and counsel of others. Through lots of great counselling sessions at Christ Central Church and millions of tears, my heart was changed through the restorative work of forgiveness and prayer.  People came around me and showed the love of Jesus through their actions, making meals for our family, buying me paper plates so I didn’t have to feel the overwhelming burden of washing the never ending dishes by hand. People stepped in. His peace stepped in.

God was with me, in a profound, personal way.

My beautiful third daughter was born traumatically, quickly in our tiny bathroom, but she was okay. God’s love stepped in and she is a miracle.

“’Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

I can rest in the fact that Jesus work is complete and He is unshakeable.  My journey with Jesus is not neatly wrapped up.  My heart races with anxiety at times (In fact, I just received prayer for that a few weeks ago!). God is still writing our story of His provision for us in very practical and real ways.

Immanuel – God is with us. Jesus came to earth, was born, lived and died. He rose again and sent the Holy Spirit to fill us, counsel and empower us.  He loves us with a love that will never be shaken.  He is drawing all of us to Himself, and this season my heart’s great desire is to know Him and experience Him more. Jesus alone is our hope, peace, joy and love.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”  Titus 3:4-7

 

Advent: Love

By Emma Bicknell

‘Love requires sacrifice – always.’ This line is from the latest Nicholas Sparks film I went to see with my husband. I cried all the way through at the sad and mushy bits; he latched on to that one line. For the next few weeks every time he did something where he had to go out of his way for me he quoted it, and sometimes when he was just doing the usual stuff too – just to remind me.

Love. I do feel unqualified to write about this, although as is obvious from my tears at the movie I am a bit in love with love, or maybe with romance. I grew up with a love for fairy stories and tales of true love. From Anne and Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables, to Maria and Captain Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, to the characters in Jane Austen novels, to Jo and Mr Bhaer in Little Women (though shouldn’t it have been Laurie?), to Cinderella and Prince Charming (every version), I’ve wept in every one and day-dreamed myself into every story. More than anything I wanted to be the heroine with my own prince to sweep me off my feet. To say I had high expectations of love is an understatement.

The world knows about love. We know that we humans need it from the day we are born. Children’s development is stunted if they are neglected and unloved. The desire to be loved is right at the core of our being. Mother Theresa said, ‘The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.’ The Beatles sang, ‘All you need is love.’ Hundreds of songs, poems and stories tell of love – the joy of having it, the pain of losing it. We admire and recognize great sacrifices motivated by love. Much of the time though we don’t know what that love is we’re looking for to satisfy the deepest need of our hearts.

No person can satisfy that need completely for another person. I’ve learned that time and again as I look for love in the approval of others, in the love of another person, in the attention of friends. However good it is it doesn’t fill me up, it always leaves me wanting.

Another movie I watched as a young child was ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. I thought that the whole story was so romantic. A young girl visited by an angel and told she’d have a baby who is God’s own son. Then the baby is born in a stable and all is awe and wonder, angels, shepherds and wise men. A bad king wants to kill Jesus, but the little family escapes after another warning from an angel. I wanted to watch that first part of the movie over and over. Of course, I knew the Christmas story inside and out from my parents teaching me and from Sunday School. I never tired of it year after year.

Now I’ve learned a few things in the years since and can relate more to the reality of the Christmas story. An unexpected and ‘illegitimate’ pregnancy is always complicated, childbirth is hard work when you’re in a hospital bed with midwives and doctors on hand to help let alone when you’re without a place to stay, I’ve been to a few stables and they are stinky, and a family fleeing for their lives to another country as a genocide is going on is a terrifying thing. The Christmas story is gritty. Jesus came into the world with the legitimacy of his birth in question, born in poverty, displaced and fleeing as a refugee to another country with his life under threat from the start and living under the violent and oppressive occupation of the Romans.

But what has this story to do with love? We can’t fully appreciate the depth of love in the gift of Jesus if we don’t realize how desperately we need him. In most of the stories I’ve mentioned, love has to overcome obstacles in order for the characters in the story to become united; this is nothing in comparison to the obstacle that God has to overcome to bring us into relationship with him. In this story we aren’t waiting around for Him to come for us as a lover would wait, the Bible says, we hated him (Colossians 1:21). God cares for us. He knows we can not save ourselves, that whatever we do we can’t live up to his holiness and be in his presence.Yet, he still made a plan to do whatever is necessary – giving himself in our place – to restore us to himself.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Jesus left heaven to live as one of us, but perfectly, so he could become the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He came knowing that he would be hated and nailed to a cross, yet he still came. He loves us that much. All of the love that we know stems from the author of love, God himself. No one has loved or will love us more than he does, because he himself is love. Christmas is far more than a fairy story and it is the greatest love story there will ever be. It is the ultimate story of love requiring sacrifice, and in that showing a love that is complete. It is the only love that frees us from our sin and shame and brings us into a relationship with God that can satisfy our deepest needs.

 ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)

 

Advent: Joy

by Julia Thompson

I bring you good news of great joy. Luke 2:10

Joy. I’ve been thinking a lot about that little word and the huge things it means in all of its smallness. Great joy. After all, Christmas can be a difficult season for many – a lonely time, a busy time, a stressful time, a time of to-do lists (my personal downfall), a time full of sad memories. For many a time of anything but happiness, and yet we are still promised joy. It boils down to this: Joy endures.

This is a hard one for me. I’ve struggled with anxiety after the birth of both of my kids. Our most recent addition to the family brought on feelings which you’d think would make me singularly unqualified to talk about joy. I was low – I wondered why I ever thought this baby thing was a good idea, I obsessed over small things, I was unable to sleep, and I struggled to feel anything beyond complacency at best. I didn’t feel those warm, bubbly feelings it seemed all the other mamas felt when they held their babies. I felt inadequate, and that made me, well…sad.

One Friday morning, after a particularly bad night, I got up really early and headed to the doctor’s office. I couldn’t go on like this. Something had to change. I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety/depression. I had checked the medical box, but knowing that ultimately God was my strength, I leaned into Him – I sought prayer, immersed myself in the word and in worship, and waited for things to improve.

The more intentional I was about my relationship with God, the more the way I viewed my circumstances changed and the more joy I experienced. As Christians we experience the same hardships in life as anyone else. We aren’t promised that life will be easy, and joy is certainly not our default setting, but we are empowered to see things differently through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christian joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and a foretaste of the pure joy found in glorifying God.

So much of the birth of Jesus reminds me of what true joy is. After learning that she would bear the Saviour of the world, Mary declares in her song of praise (Luke 1: 46-55), “my soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (v. 46, 47) Mary’s response to God’s call on her life was one of joy that glorified God. As with all of the fruits of the Spirit the ultimate purpose of joy is to glorify God – joy helps us to see beauty in the everyday as a reflection of Christ and His love to us. We too can experience true joy, even in uncertainty, when we enter into God’s presence, just as Mary did. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By spending time with Him and enjoying Him. Trusting in His goodness to us.

I am thankful that I don’t have to summon up joy – I’ve found that to be impossible. Emotions are fickle. They ebb and flow. My responsibility is to worship God regardless of how broken or whole I feel on any given day. Thankfully God’s joy is always accessible and my proximity to Him as the source has a direct correlation on how much joy I experience and reflect in this broken world. When the day is short, I am sleep deprived, and my to-do list is long, changing my priorities goes a long way towards changing my perspective. When I lean into God, and spend time with Him I see my life differently – things that felt like a burden become smaller in the light of all that He has done. I see God at work and I sense His purpose and presence in my life. I am reassured that God knows me, He knows my heart, He knows my circumstances.

I don’t have to be the perfect mom or have it all together. God’s got it all covered, I lack nothing! This evokes a response of worship and an uprising of happiness in my heart. God enables us to experience His joy even when perfection is far off and gives us a taste of the perfect joy we will experience when we glorify God in eternity. It is this joy that is referred to by the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” which references the joy experienced at Christ’s return rather than His birth.

That carol is a reminder to me this Christmas that the joy I experience in this life is only the tip of the iceberg. A taste of a promise. God’s joy will come full circle – starting with the birth of a Saviour, the Son of God, who is glorified when we take joy in Him, enabled through His Spirit, and becoming complete upon Christ’s return. The birth of Jesus and His eventual death on a cross extends to us the invitation to experience complete joy with Him one day.  Until that time we can experience the same thrill that accompanied Gabriel’s announcement of the Saviour’s birth, “good news of great joy.” The same joy the shepherds felt then echoes now, all because we have the ultimate joy – Emmanuel, God with us.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: 5 Questions

1. What about Syria?

Location: Syria is a country in Western Asia. It borders Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest.

Capital: Damascus
Size: 186, 475 km2 (about 2.5 times bigger than New Brunswick)
Religion: According to Operation World, Syria is 90% Muslim (20,254,582 people), 6% Christian (1,426,823 people), and 0.1% Evangelical Christian (23,663 people).

Biblical References:
The birth of Jesus…
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Luke 2:1-2

The conversion of Saul…
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.” Acts 9:3

The early church…
“Now there were in the church at Antioch of Syria prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3



2. What is the Syrian Refugee Crisis?

For the past four years, Syria has been in a civil war that has forced 11 million people— half the country’s pre-crisis population—to flee their homes. About 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and 4 million have fled Syria for other countries. The result is one of the largest forced migrations since World War II.

Are all the refugees fleeing Islamic State (ISIS)? Not necessarily. The crisis is mostly caused by the civil war in Syria. In 2011, during the Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, protesters in Syria demanded the end of Ba’ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in the country since 1971. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was sent to quell the protest and soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion and has spread across the country.

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Although the conflict was originally between factions for and against President Assad, the civil war has broadened into a battle between the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alawite sect. The conflict has drawn in neighboring countries and world powers and lead to the rise of jihadist groups, including Islamic State.

http://erlc.com/article/explainer-what-you-should-know-about-the-syrian-refugee-controversy

3. Who is ISIS?

ISIS (also known as ISIL) is the group that during the Iraq War was often referred to as “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.” ISIS stands for The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (the group is actually called “The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant” but most western media translate “Levant” as “Syria.”). The group claims it is an independent state with claims to Iraq, Syria, and Lebannon. It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group has targeted military and governments of Iraq and Syria but has also claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. According to a study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, ISIS has plans to seize power and turn the country into an fundamentalist Islamic state.

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-faqs-persecution-of-christians-in-iraq


4. Where Can I Learn More?

NEWS
Fredericton is 1 of 36 destinations for Syrian refugees CBC News, November 24 2015
The executive director of the Multicultural Association of Fredericton (MCAF) has confirmed Fredericton is one of 36 identified “destination” cities for Syrian refugees.

What Syrian refugees can expect on arrival in Canada Toronto Sun, December 8 2015
“They will enter this terminal as refugees,” said a beaming Jurisic. “They will leave as permanent residents of Canada.”

CHRISTIAN RESPONSES
Love and Loss in Syria’s Refugee Crisis Cort Gatliff, The Gospel Coalition
“In the middle of this chaos, Ibrahim, a former Muslim who left behind his home in Syria, is serving refugees in Istanbul and taking advantage of every opportunity to tell them about his faith in Jesus.”

Should We Pray For ISIS To Be Defeated Or Converted? Russel Moore
“The main problem is that we sometimes forget that we are called to be a people of both justice and justification, and that these two are not contradictory.”

“Cleansing the Caliphate:” ISIS and Genocide of Christians J.J. Daniels, Providence
Reports that the White House will declare that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has committed genocide against Iraqi Yazidis, but not against Christians, are of grave concern.

WORLDWIDE REFUGEE CRISIS
It’s not just Syria: Refugee crisis is 60 million and growing MercyCorps, October 1 2015
Right now, there are nearly 60 million refugees or displaced people worldwide. If all of the world’s refugees were the population of a country, it would be the 24th largest in the world, just after Italy.


5. What Can I Do?

PRAY
The website The Syrian Circle provides some daily prayer points to direct you on how to best pray for this crisis.

PRACTICAL HELP
The Multicultural Association of Fredericton (MCAF) outlines a few ways that people can practically help as they prepare for an influx of refugees. To stay up to date on all that the MCAF is doing (including training, information sessions, etc) visit their Facebook page.

We had another good turnout today at our Lunch & Learn session for sponsors and volunteers for Syrian refugees…

Posted by Multicultural Association of Fredericton Inc. on Thursday, December 3, 2015

Here are some ways that you can help with the Syrian Refugee Crisis:

INTERPRETERS
If you know Arabic, the MCAF needs interpreters for the Syrian refugees. The training for this role is scheduled for Dec 11 and 12. More info is here.
To apply for this specific role, please fill out this form.

HOUSING
If you have available housing or rental accommodations and would like to notify MCAF, please fill out this form.

VOLUNTEER
There are three specific ways to help as a volunteer, with a minimum 6 month commitment:

1. First Fredericton Friends
Volunteers (Canadian-born and/or settled immigrants) will be matched with newly arrived newcomer(s) to meet once a week for two hours or more (volunteers share time and friendship with immigrants during the critical first six months) for conversation, friendship building, and to introduce them to their new community. MCAF will try to match you with a newcomer(s) with similar interests and the same gender.

2. Tutors: English and/or French
English and French tutors meet weekly with newcomer participants individually (one-on-one), or in small conversation groups providing extra help or an opportunity for newcomers to practice their English or French. Volunteers will develop/use teaching skills and learn more about new cultures.

3. Mentors
Mentorships link professionals and skilled immigrants in the same or similar occupations/professions and provide a valuable learning opportunity for both mentor and mentee participants. Mentors provide informal advice, connections, moral support and entry into professional networks that allow a skilled immigrant to break into the job market at a level comparable with her/his training and education.

You can apply for any of these roles here.


 

 


 


 

Advent: Peace

BY BRITTANY SCHULER

The sound of the midnight train reached to a halt. It was late, and when I arrived to the station, I quickly learned that I was on the last train for the night. The only problem was that I was in Basel, Switzerland and not in Strasbourg, France (my final intended destination). Strasbourg was another 136 km away.

I quickly rushed to check the schedule to see if another train was leaving for France. Nope, that was it, Milan – Basel was the last one. Passengers with suitcases and big backpacks were quickly leaving the station. Staff at the ticket counter were no longer in sight. The cafés along the platforms were being locked up. I went to one of the electronic ticket booths to see if I could purchase a ticket for France. There was not one listed for Strasbourg until 5:17am the next morning. As it was already midnight, I decided I would wait it out. I searched my pockets for my last 20 Euros to buy my ticket. And, of course, it was no where to be found. I could have sworn that I had put it in my jacket pocket when I was in Milan. I guess somehow, between the time of my last train ride and right now, it had found a way to disappear.

basel

I walked out towards the entrance of the station to see if I could find a washroom. Thankfully there was one, but unfortunately you needed Swiss francs to get in, which I had none of. A custodian was standing there mopping the floor.  I begged him to let me jump the turn style as my need to pee was urgent. He didn’t speak French, or English. He just glared at me confused, shook his head, turned off the lights and left. I went outside to look around. It was gently snowing and around -5C. The street was covered by its white blanket, not a person in sight. But there, on the corner in front of me was a Burger King that was still open….thank you God! I raced towards it. The girl at the counter was just about to lock the door, when I barged in and begged her if I could use the washroom. “Vas-y vite.” she responded, slightly annoyed. I was so thankful that I didn’t have to pee in the snow.

Yet, when I returned back to the station, I began to feel slightly anxious. I was a 20 year old university student, learning French in Strasbourg, France. It wasn’t the Christmas that I had intended to spend. A round trip to Canada and back was more expensive than a few days in Italy. As I unknowingly thought it would be my one and only year in Europe, I took the cheaper option, backpacked in Italy, and Skyped with my family on Christmas. God had kept me safe the entire time, helped me when I was lost and blessed me with the opportunity to see so much. Beginning the journey home for Strasbourg that morning, I had a sense of relief to be going back to a place that I was familiar with. But when reality hit, I realized that would not be the case tonight. My only option was to wait here, in this cold, empty train station by myself until the next ride home. I found an empty alcove in one of the hallways to sit in, hoping it would be somewhat warmer. So there I was, finishing up the Christmas holidays, tired, cold, hungry, broke, thousands of miles away from actual home, 136 km away from where I was supposed to be.

At this moment, it was easy to let my mind wander into the belief that I was completely alone, when nothing seemed to be happening in my favour. However, when I noticed that everything seemed to be going bad all at once, I couldn’t help but think that just maybe, God was up to something greater that I didn’t quite understand.

There I sat, waiting.  Each time I peered down at my watch, it didn’t seem like time was moving. The minutes were painfully going by. I just kept…waiting. Only 5 more hours of this to go… I thought. Eventually, I prayed to God for patience, asking him for a peace of mind to replace the anxiety that I was feeling. At that moment His sense of peace came over me. It was a total sense of calm. I knew he was looking out for me.  Things were not so bad. Getting through this was not impossible, it was just a matter of waiting.

Suddenly, I heard the crinkling sound of pages being turned. I looked over and in the alcove a few feet away from me, was a little old woman reading a newspaper. She didn’t look at all phased by her dreary circumstances. In fact, she looked quite comfortable, sitting on the steps next to her big black suitcase. I slowly got up and walked over to her, asking her if she was also waiting. She replied in broken English. She was from Spain and she too had ended up stranded. She was on her way to Germany where she worked at the Spanish embassy. She offered for me to sit down beside her. I was so thankful to see another  human being at that point that I quickly sat down and we talked for quite some time.

Regardless of our inability to speak each other’s first language we somehow managed to have the most interesting conversation about cultural differences, the challenges of learning to speak a different language, and “fitting in” with a society that is so different than the one we are used to. Part way through our conversation she stopped to pull out a small carrot cake from her bag. She had intended to give it to the family she was supposed to be meeting that night, but now there was no point. She broke it in half and insisted that I help her eat it as we were both hungry. The time flew by and before I knew it, it was time to part ways. She informed me ( as I had no money) that I could purchase the train ticket by credit card from the conductor when I boarded the train. I asked if I could pray for her and she agreed.

God’s gift of peace to us, is so great. In times where we may appear to be alone, we can always trust Him to give us His serenity, His sense of calm and the understanding that we are never truly on our own.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”- John 14: 27

No matter how far away from home you find yourself or how different your Christmas may end up this year, the opportunity to experience His peace is always there. We have no need to be anxious.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

We can have peace in Him no matter what troubles we may come across here on this earth, big or small. He knows what is best and he can already see the glorious outcome. May your Christmas be filled with His sense of peace, knowing that he is in ultimate control of all things.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33

Merry Christmas,

Brittany

Advent: Hope

BY SHARLA McHARG

Hope. It’s a word that many of us identify with in the Christmas season. Family members await holiday visits from loved ones. Kids wish for certain gifts under the tree. Friends happily plan parties with special Christmas treats. Neighbours look forward to their streets lighting up colourfully.

Yet, that’s not the whole story, is it? Many others among us feel a marked lack of hope at Christmastime: sadness, grief, loneliness, fear, worry. Those who suffer long for hope this Christmas too, but where is the hope?

In looking back, I can remember two particularly difficult Christmases over the years. In 2004 I entered the Advent season with my heart aching following the ectopic pregnancy my husband, Darren, and I had lost a month prior. This wasn’t how I pictured our first highly-anticipated pregnancy playing out after so many years of my longing to be a mom. Then in 2009, we faced another challenging Christmas season with job loss, financial instability, vocational uncertainty, and the huge stress that comes along with it. Where was our hope?

The hope that Darren and I have found in difficult Christmas seasons has been this: Jesus. The baking and decorations and lights and music and parties are wonderful, but when things get really tough, they’re not enough. It is Jesus who is enough. He is our hope.

The Scriptures give various names for God. Long before Jesus’ birth while the Jews were still waiting for the coming Messiah, it was foretold in Isaiah that “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isa. 7:14). During Jesus’ life on this earth, he was in very nature God, the Son of the Most High God. He was also fully “with us” and took on human form.

Because He was fully human, we can know that he understands human frailty. He felt hunger and thirst and pain. He understands injustice, having been brutally mistreated. He knows what it is like to feel alone and rejected. However, because He is fully God, His understanding and compassion isn’t the end of the story. As Almighty God, He was sent not only to understand the broken hearted, but to heal their wounds.

Sometimes this healing comes through Him changing our circumstances. Sometimes He heals us through changing our hearts and bringing hope and joy right in the midst of struggle. Whichever way our healing comes here on this earth, however, our solid and lasting hope is the complete healing of spirit and body promised to us at the end of this life. Jesus has the power to forgive sin and make us right before God, giving us eternal life with him in heaven. At that time, everything will be made right and there will be no pain, sadness, or injustice. This is our lasting hope!

So, knowing the nature of Jesus as fully human and fully God, Darren and I poured out our fears and frustrations in prayer to Him in 2009 and cried out for hope. Jesus did give us the hope that we were looking for. During that season of unemployment, He supernaturally calmed our hearts and whispered to us an eternal perspective on our troubles and reminded us of a much better existence waiting for us in eternity. He also provided for our needs, sent us encouragement through His people, and gave us fresh insight and direction for our future. Our confidence and satisfaction in Him grew immensely that year.

So, this Christmas as we decorate our tree, we unwrap the gold-painted wood-carved word which I bought back in 2009: “Hope.” It finds a special place on our tree each year, reminding us that God is truly with us and for us. As I reflect back on the years, I have no doubt that God longs to show compassion and that He has the power to work for our good, and I am thankful and hope-filled.

Will you join me in seeking out Jesus for the gift of hope this Christmas?