Hope Emphasized

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Christmas is unlike any other event throughout the year. The meaning of Christmas commands celebration! It is the birth of new life, the fulfillment of God’s promise and the evidence of His faithfulness. Christmas is the manifestation of the character and nature of God.

In Luke 2 Angels appear to shepherds in the field who are tending sheep. The time between the end of the Old Testament, marked by the book of Malachi and the announcement of Jesus’ birth, measured 400 years of silence. For 400 hundred years God did not speak.  Never mistake God’s silence as a lack of involvement.  In that time, God was with His people.

Have you ever gone through a time when it felt like 400 years since God last spoke to you? Understand that God is with you even when He is silent.  Silence can’t separate you from God.  It’s in the silence where faith carries us.

Faith is not developed by simply hearing God’s word, but by obeying God’s word. This is why learning God’s word must take priority in our life. You can’t obey what you don’t know.

The appearance of Angelic messengers bringing the message of the birth of the Messiah to shepherds was quite unexpected in every aspect. You would think an important message, such as this, would have been delivered to the Priest or some other important leader but not a shepherd. Shepherds in this time-period were not held in high regard.

Generally speaking, Shepherds were drunks, thieves, untrustworthy and dishonest, spiritually and physically unclean, foul-mouthed, ill-mannered, the kind of person you didn’t want your daughter to bring home to dinner, kind of person.

No group of people in Israel was held in as much moral contempt as shepherds, with maybe one exception, tax collectors. The Talmud, which is a collection of rabbinical instructions, prohibited shepherds from testifying in court as a witness because their testimony was considered unreliable.

The irony is that this unclean segment of society was responsible for raising the sheep required for temple sacrifices to make those offering it clean. The perpetually unclean made it possible for the rest of society to be made clean before God.

Why would this all-important, life-altering message be delivered to a segment of society that was viewed as untrustworthy and despised? God sees people differently than we see people. How we see people affects how close we get to them and how we treat them. With God, the more broken humanity is the closer He gets to them.

“18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”         Psalm 34:18

No matter what you have done, you are NEVER outside the boundaries of God’s love. You may be broken and damaged in the eyes of people, but you are never so broke that God can’t redeem or restore you. What an amazing message of hope.

Not only was the content of the message the Angels delivered significant but whom they delivered the message to magnified its significance. From the selection of his earthly parents to the announcement of the birth of the Messiah, to His birthplace in a lowly manger, God was turning our established cultural norms upside down, or possibly right side up.

Christmas is a message of hope. Hope that tomorrow can be better than today. Hope that I can become a better person than I have been. Hope gives us the courage to change. Jesus came to bring hope to humanity. His message to a group of outcast shepherds emphasized the hope He came to give to all people.

As you celebrate with family and friends and exchange gifts keep in mind the gift of hope that came in the form of an infant by the name of Jesus. Jesus is God’s demonstration of love and the fulfillment of hope made available to all!

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