With the ending of every year, it’s natural to look back on the year past and look forward to the year ahead. We can look back and see what was accomplished, what we wished had been accomplished, and reflect on all that was unexpected (which honestly describes most of the past two years). We also look forward into the year ahead. We dream of what may be in front of us and set expectations for what we hope to accomplish. All the time wondering what unexpected events lay ahead.
For Christians though, it is not just the end of the year, but rather the celebration of Christmas that brings this reflective and expectant posture. This holiday, in a unique way, causes us to remember and to hope.
More than any other time of year we take part in all sorts of meaningful, silly, and sometimes strange traditions to help us look back and remember. Remember that 2,000 years ago, something that would change the course of history happened: Jesus came into the world. With Spotify set to fill our homes with songs like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” we set up decorations and remember the night “Christ was born in Bethlehem.”
But we don’t just look back and remember; at Christmas we look forward in hope.
Jesus came first in the humblest of ways, but he is coming a second time with glory, authority, and power. Joy came into the world on that first Christmas, but that joy will be complete when at his return, “He rules the world with truth and grace.” While we probably won’t hear of, “the Word of God” riding on a white horse from Revelation 19 preached at a Christmas Eve service, our hearts nonetheless should be stirred towards hope. Hope that the first Christmas two millennia ago is not the only time that Jesus will come to earth. On the trustworthiness of God’s word, we look to the future in hope that he will come again.
As I sit here, in the middle of the Christmas season, my own home full of lights and more nativity scenes than I can count, I can’t help but think how the words “remember” and “hope” reflect my thoughts towards China.
I remember what life was like before the pandemic, when we could easily travel in and out of the country. I remember the joy it was to celebrate Christmas with people who had never known a reason to celebrate before. I remember the friends whom we loved celebrating with and the traditions our family made in our small apartment.
I also look forward with hope. I hope to one day soon be back with those friends and revive those traditions. I hope to celebrate Christmas again with people who have never done so before. And I hope that viruses will cease, and borders reopen so that travel once again can resume.
With each passing month of the pandemic, the fragility of those hopes is exposed. I realize that while I hope and pray for those things to be a reality again, I have no guarantee that they ever will be. My hope for a “normalized” world can sway with each news story I read.
But that hope is utterly unlike the hope that Christmas brings. The hope that Christmas brings is not altered by a virus, the closing of borders, or international politics. The hope that Christmas brings is secure as ever. In 2022, there may continue to be travel restrictions as to where we can, “Tell it on the mountain,” but the reality of Jesus’ first coming and the hope of his second has not changed in the slightest.
I love the example of Anna in Luke 2. Her world had been turned upside down at the death of her husband, and yet her hope in the promises of God remained steady for decades. The last two years have adjusted all our interactions with China. Like Anna our world is different; this is not what we expected. But like Anna, what we rest on and what we hope in remains the same: Jesus has come, and he will come again.
This season, as you remember and hope in the coming of Christ, we at ChinaSource wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
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