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December Message From Pastor Mike: “Unwrapping Hope this Christmas”

This year, Christmas can’t come soon enough. I don’t just mean that we’re feeling impatient about the time between now and when the calendar reads December 25. I mean we need Christmas this year, maybe more than any year before. We need the joy, the good news, the child-like wonder and happiness of the season. Most of all, we need the hope that Jesus’ birth offers our hearts.

Eight months ago, when we were only a few days into the pandemic and just starting to deal with the initial shutdown of businesses, schools and our church, I wrote these words in the April Messenger: “[I]t is possible that we will not be able to gather on Easter morning, which would be a great loss and hardship for all of us. If we cannot be together that morning, let us assure one another that Jesus will still be worshiped as our Risen Lord. We will still rejoice in the glorious news of His resurrection and in the new life we have found in Him.”

Now, we face the Christmas season with our nation and families still reeling from the pandemic and all its disruptive forces. Easter was affected, then Memorial Day, graduations, weddings, funerals, birthdays, anni-versaries, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and most recently Thanksgiving. Next comes Christmas, soon to be followed by New Year’s Day. All spoiled to some degree by the virus.

We grieve what we have lost and worry about what may come next. That’s been the story of 2020.

But now, into our anxious hearts flows the hope of Christmas. Jesus came into our dark world, born as a little baby to a young couple who couldn’t even find a room at the local inn. It may have seemed like a hope-less moment for helpless people, but it was God’s plan to offer this world everlasting hope. Emmanuel ap-peared, bringing the hope of “God with us” right into the middle of our sorrow, hardship, illness, temptation, fear and death.

Let’s remember the hope Jesus offers and allow that hope to wash away the worries of the past year.

Our greatest hope, of course, points us ahead to eternal life, when the suffering of this world will van-ish and we will rejoice before God’s throne forever and ever. With the heavenly multitude of believers, we will have a new home, free from illness, sorrow and death. Let’s cling to that hope, even as we walk the hard roads of this life, knowing that what we endure today won’t last forever.

Christmas also gives us the hope of Good Friday and Easter. Jesus was born to die and rise again. He came to save us, and what He accomplished on the cross gives us the assurance that God no longer counts our sins against us. Therefore, we can walk in hope and righteousness instead of fear and shame. Let’s hold fast to the hope of salvation, as we turn away from sin and toward the right paths God sets before us.

God also gives us hope for healing and restoration through the pandemic. Vaccines are coming, holding great promise for protection against the virus. In the meantime, God is answering a multitude of prayers, giv-ing strength and skill to medical researchers and health care workers to enable their heroic work. As the vac-cines are distributed in our nation and around the world, we will see life slowly return to what we once knew.

For now, we rejoice in the hope of Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Jesus. We worship the God who shows us grace and mercy. We share Jesus’ love and message with people in need, offering them the hope that keeps us going.

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