Tuesday, November 29, 2016

From Despair to Hope

One of my very favorite Christmas songs is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day!"  I've loved this song for years.

As I reflect on the words to this song today, I feel they are very appropriate for the times we are living in.

I heard the bells on Christmas day,
Their old familiar carols play.
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head.
There is no peace on earth, I said!
For hate is strong, and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men!

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep!
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
with peace on earth, good will to men!

Hate is strong in our world today, isn't it? We don't see a lot of peace on earth or much good will toward men. Our hearts long to see peace and kindness expressed one to another. But sadly, in a world where God is mocked and pretty much ignored, left to our own devices, we are a selfish and hateful people, looking out only for #1.

Without God to give meaning to our existence, we become constant strivers in a "dog eat dog" existence. Killing unborn babies and committing physician-assisted suicide confirms to us that life is only as valuable as we say it is. We are convinced that we are the masters over our own destiny.

But, going from the second to the third stanza, the truth this song expresses gives us hope. "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep." That's the hope that comes alive at this time of year, this Christmas season. That's the hope that causes us to smile at strangers, hold the door for others, let someone out in traffic, etc. Hope comes alive in our hearts that things could possibly be different. This hope that we feel is hope that life and people are not as rotten as we think they are or as rotten as they've proven to be.

Whether we know it or not, whether we understand it or not, our hearts long to find this hope to be true. We long to be proved wrong and to find goodness in this world. We long for peace, the peace to live our lives to love and serve one another as we are loved and served.

Sadly, most people rush right by the only One who can fulfill that hope and bring that peace to our hearts. The Very One whose birth we celebrate at this special time of year. Jesus came to give us peace; indeed, He is the Prince of Peace!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Price of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this."
Isaiah 9:6, 7

Interestingly enough, the Scripture that is so often quoted and is even quoted in our featured song, is quoted erroneously. Luke 2:14 says,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Quite different from what is often quoted, isn't it? The correct wording of this verse tells me that there is only true, real peace where His favor rests. And to whom does God's favor rest? On those who believe!

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will,
but born of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."
John 1:12-14

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come in to the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God"
John 3:16-21

This very truth is what brings us from the place of despair to a place of hope and on to joy! Joy in knowing our Savior lives and if we but believe, we can experience that very hope, peace and joy He has promised!

This season many hearts are open to receive, encouraged by the promise of hope. I pray those who know this Hope-Giver will be encouraged to share this good news of hope, peace, joy, and love - all this Advent Season promises!

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