If we look around us, on line, in the TV news, on the radio, or in our communities, there can be lots of cause for discouragement. Depending on where we look and the lens through which we view the world, we see poverty, oppression, war, neglect, racism, illness, addiction, loneliness, irresponsibility, and death. It can be a bleak and even overwhelming picture. And some might harken back to a better time, a simpler time. But it was only better and simpler for some, and on the whole there is greater health and prosperity and peace today than at any time in history. We are not in a globe-consuming war of bombs and guns and gas. There is not a plague sweeping the planet and consuming upwards of half the population.
Even so, we have much work to do. God’s work. God’s dream of a peaceful garden that we see reflected in Genesis 1-3 and again in Revelation 20-21, and it appears repeatedly throughout scripture, as in Isaiah 11 and 35. We who follow Jesus pray as he taught us “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven…” We pray that God will indeed restore the earth to this idyllic dream. And God’s response to this prayer? A baby.
“Behold the young woman will conceive and bear a son, and you will call him Immanuel” (which means “God is with us.”) ~ Isaiah 7:14
All of God’s hopes and God’s energy and power are invested in this plan – a baby, born to poor parents in an out-of-the-way part of the world.
Yet “he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.“
~ Isaiah 9:6
And if the idea of bringing about redemption and peace for the world through a baby weren’t enough, this good news and this work are then entrusted to a rag-tag band of students, of disciples. And we are the 60th plus generation of these followers. This work is now entrusted to us. So look around, notice and really see all the difficult things in your life and in the world. Then recognize that all the power necessary to transform this life is invested within the incarnate Christ, the baby born in Bethlehem. And when we truly follow him, truly walk in The Way, and think, speak and act in ways that bring about justice and righteousness, then the promises will be fulfilled:
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian." ~ Isaiah 9:2-4
All this is the hope of a child. You can see it in every child who is born – limitless promise and possibility of life created in God’s image for God’s glory. As we look at the world this Advent and Christmas season, let us look with expectation and wonder. Let us look with the hope of a child.