Matthew 1:18-2:18 reminds us there is hope in a horrible year.
Mary knows a horrible year. She’ll wear the stigma and shame of her pregnancy every day. The sideways looks, the pity, the growing distance between friends, conversations cut short.
Joseph knows a horrible year. The disappointment, the disgrace of Mary’s pregnancy, the shame and stigma that belongs to her now belongs to him.
The Magi know a horrible year. These scholars/astrologers travel the difficult, months-long journey to a promise under a star. They leave Jerusalem, and its murderous overlord Herod, deeply disturbed. They've put their own safety at risk and the journey home is longer and harder.
As family with a new baby, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus know a horrible year. They flee to safety in Egyptian-controlled territory.
Parents across Bethlehem know the horrific heart of a horrible year as they mourn the massacre of children at the hand of Herod.
I am reminded that almost every year in the ancient world would, in many ways, have been a horrible year.
Thinking more deeply, I realise that the uncertainty, the despondency, the poverty, and the fragility of a horrible year is almost the norm throughout history.
As leaders, we too have known a horrible year. A year of upheaval, uncertainty, and exhaustion.
A year of challenges, stresses, and strains. A year of financial pressure, economic, and political uncertainty. A year of ministry, family, and work changes.
In the midst of a horrible year there is hope
Here is our hope, the one born of Mary is conceived of by the Spirit of God. He is God.
Here is our hope, he is human, and can stand in our place.
Here is our hope, the one in the cradle will go to the cross. He is the Messiah.
Here is our hope, the one in the trough will hang on a tree. He will save his people from their sins.
Here is our hope, the one born in a stable will be staked to a cross. He is God with us.
Here is our hope, the arc of history flows from him and to him.
Here is our hope, through his death and resurrection, he saves us from a horrible day, a day when all the horribleness of our hearts and history will be dealt with.
Here is our hope, he reigns in history and across history.
Here is our hope, all the prophets point to him.
Here is our hope, he is God with us, here and now.
I am convinced that there is nothing more powerful than ordinary churches full of people whose hearts rest in the hope of our Lord's life, death, resurrection, and return. Believers who live out this hope in with hospitality and care.
I am convinced that there is nothing more central to the heart of leadership teams than knowing and resting in the hope of Jesus' death and resurrection.
To you, leaders, I say a heartfelt thank you.
I know many of you are bone weary, I know you’ve been stretched in more directions that you thought possible.
I know any number of you are clawing your way to Christmas.
Thank you for holding out the hope of Jesus in this horrible year.