“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” Isaiah 9:2
Every year I am the embodiment of the crazed Christmas celebrator. I love all things Christmas. I love Christmas movies (shout out to Hallmark)! I love the sense of wonder and magic of the holiday season. I love the twinkling lights, the smell of fresh pine from our live trees. I love what Christmas is and who we are celebrating. I love Christmas music–especially the old Christmas hymns. The message of Christmas is so rooted in those songs. I will not admit when I may or may not start listening to the occasional Christmas song and I will not admit if it was prior to Halloween this year. I blame my son, Seth, for the early onset of listening to Christmas songs. The older I get, the more precious Christmas has become to me. Perhaps it is partly due to the sense of childlike wonder that accompanies the season, a reminder to reflect on the miracles of that long ago, first Christmas morning. Even more so, though, is that it is the gift of Jesus, light breaking through darkness, the Messiah come to save His people from their sins. Recently I was listening to one of the traditional Christmas carols, “O Holy Night,” and the lyrics struck me and resonated within my soul.
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”
The weary world rejoices. As I sang along with those words, I thought how much our world needs those words right now during this Christmas season. We are truly a weary world. I suspect that many of us would agree that 2020 has left us feeling weary, if nothing else. We are weary of life in quarantine, isolation, and social distancing. We are desperate for human connection. Weary indeed. But how many were weary even before the disappointment and disaster that has become known as the year 2020? Maybe it is weariness rooted in a health scare or long battle with a disease, affliction, or addiction. Maybe it is weariness from working a job that seems to be going nowhere and offers little fulfillment. Or it could be weariness from marital strife. Weariness from feelings of loneliness or doing life alone. Weariness over a financial situation. Weariness from a prayer that just has not yet been answered. Weariness of body, weariness of mind, weariness of spirit. But, on that first Christmas morn, rejoicing had come. Hope became manifested in the body of the baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Light broke through the darkness. The hope of Israel had come. The nation of Israel was well-versed in the concept of waiting. Prophecies foretold of the coming Messiah, but the people lived in anticipation and expectation of His arrival, never knowing when it would be. In our modern culture, we do not do waiting well. It is a lost art. Many of us no longer can stand more than a two-day wait for our Amazon packages to arrive. But for the nation of Israel, waiting was handed down from generation to generation. Imagine this, 400 years had passed since they had heard a God’s voice to them. In Old Testament times, God often spoke to His people through prophets. But for 400 years, after the prophet Malachi, God went silent. God was not inactive, but He was silent. Generations came and went with no word from the voice of God. And then, God broke His silence. His angel, Gabriel, appeared to the priest, Zechariah, and told him that he and his barren wife would conceive. The child would be born as the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:5-25). At long last and after centuries of waiting, the weary world had reason to celebrate. God had broken His silence and the Messiah was coming. After the angel’s visit to Zechariah, he appeared to Mary and to Joseph, fulfilling the prophecy that “the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). How weary must they have felt prior to the appearance of the angel. Perhaps their hope had begun to wane. Mine certainly would have. What would have made any of them think that their generation would finally be the one in which God would break His silence? Or that the Messiah would come? Oh how their weary world must have rejoiced with the thrill of hope.
We, too, have reason to feel the thrill of hope this Christmas. Our Messiah did come, did give us the greatest gift ever–His Spirit to indwell those who believe in Him now and eternal life with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ. We do not have to wait for the coming Savior because, with Jesus, came Immanuel, God with us. Yes, we may feel weary this year for a host of reasons. But we can rejoice. We should rejoice. Jesus Christ was the reason to hope and rejoice 2000 years ago, and He continues to be our reason to hope and rejoice, even in 2020. “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Jesus summons us all those who are weary to come to Him. This Christmas, let us sing with hearts set on Him, “the thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.” Jesus is still the one who performs miracles. The greatest miracle of all is that He saved this weary sinner, and He loved me so much that He entered the world as a helpless baby boy and lived life in the tent of human flesh only to be tortured, crucified, and buried in my stead. Then, He rose again, conquering death so that I could have eternal fellowship with Him. He loves every one of us that much. That, my friend, is the reason for this weary world to rejoice and to hope expectantly for His return.
As we enter the season of Advent and celebrating Christmas, my hope and prayer for you is that you feel God’s presence, and with it, that you feel a sense of light breaking through your darkness. I pray that your weariness will abate and that you feel hopeful and expectant with joy and rejoicing. In the midst of it, be on the lookout for ways to be a source of Christmas light to other weary pilgrims on this journey of life.