Hope is Born

Hope is Born www.learning-grace.com

I honestly haven’t felt very Christmassy this year. I’ve been half-heartedly going through the motions: I put up some lights, the nativity scene, but certainly not as many decorations as normal. I baked an obligatory batch of cookies, but not the kind you cut out and decorate. Christmas cards still have not been done—they will probably be ecards this year.

The world events have got me down. I just don’t feel that “Christmas cheer” this year. I see the news and I am saddened by the hopelessness that I see. I am angered by the many who are in a place to help but do not. I am also frustrated with myself for reaching yet another year end without certain goals met.

I see the same in my neighbors and friends who are going through divorce, who are mourning the loss of loved ones, who don’t know how they are going to pay the bills, who are struggling with rifts in their beloved families.

This season puts a magnifying glass on our broken places.

And that’s okay. Christ did not come into a world full of peace and joy. He came to a place that was just as dark, if not darker, than it is today. He was born into a land that was ruled by a tyrant. Herod used fear to control his subjects. Jesus was born into a place and time in which soldiers carried out orders to exterminate young boys. It was a world filled with terror.

Advent: Coming. Christ is coming. Even if this is not a time of peace and joy and happiness, it is a time of expectation that in spite of the present moment, Christ is coming. A new hope is arriving on the scene. It’s okay to be sad, to feel the darkness closing in, but it will not always be that way. Do not lose sight of the hope that we have. The bright star in the dark sky saying, “hope is born.”

Let hope be born in you today.

“In him was life, and the life was the light of all. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” –John 1:4–5


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Silent Night

IMG_3297The children filed in, angels and shepherds, and lined up in front of the manger scene and began to sing Silent Night with sweet hand motions. Parents shot video and took pictures – proud of their little ones.

I sat there, too, eyes bright with tears. My kids weren’t up there. One was on my lap, too young for the chorus. The other was at my side quietly singing parts of the song and doing a few of the hand motions. I was bursting with pride. It felt like a Christmas miracle.

A year ago, I would not have thought this to be possible. My son, now three, was just diagnosed with autism. Autism and a bunch of other “disorders” that basically say he’s not following a typical path of development and open doors for him to qualify for therapy.

From the time he was born – two months early – we knew he was just going to do things on his own time. When he seemed to be taking longer than normal to meet certain milestones, we thought he needed a boost to help him catch up since he was a preemie. We were told he’d catch up by the time he turned two. He didn’t.

And so we sought answers. I kept hearing the “A-word,” but I just couldn’t entertain the thought. But when he was officially diagnosed in November 2013, we were forced to hold our aspirations for him a bit more loosely. No one could tell us what the future was going to hold for him: would he get better? Worse? We didn’t know and I’ll just speak for myself here: I was terrified.

We entered into 24 hours of therapy for him each week. On top of the therapy there were things we were supposed to follow through with . . . you know in our free time. Our daughter was six months old at the time and then there’s the need to earn a living. I felt like someone threw an elephant at me and then told me to just run with it.

And somehow, with a lot of help, we did. We did it one day at a time. One therapy at a time. One trial at a time. One smile, one word, one skill, at a time. We watched as our son slowly emerged from a cocoon. There’s still a long way to go, but he’s come so far. We often forget that until suddenly he’s talking and telling us how he’s feeling or he’s sitting next to me singing.

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Advent ImageThese weeks leading up to Christmas—the ones filled with cookies and cards, lights and
laughter, preparation and presents—mark the beginning of the Church calendar. It’s a new year already y’all! The word itself means “the Lord is coming.” Indeed he is. In a manger.

Humbly, he enters the world that has been preparing for him since the beginning of time. Are you ready for him? I’m not. As much as I’d like to say I am, I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for the entrance of the Son of God in my life. And if I waited for that prime moment, I think it’d never come.

Every year I go back to the photo I took in Darfur, now seven years ago. A man and his horse plowing parched earth in the midst of a dust storm. It looks hopeless, but he plants and prepares anyway in faith that the rains will come and that they will be sufficient. The millet seeds he sinks into the ground have to sustain his family, or they will starve.

Do I understand my faith in the same way? Do I prepare for God to lead me as if my life depended on it? I don’tLife is comfortable to some degree for most of us. We don’t really know what it is to teeter on the edge of survival.

Where am I this Advent? I am in a place of new life—for once. I am clearing out the cobwebs that had collected on my faith and I’m opening my eyes to see how God really is active all around me.

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