By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“But the angel said to them, do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11
For many of us, this season will be an endurance marathon of way too much to do, way too much to eat and way too much stress. However, the true blessing of the Christmas season can be discovered when we focus on preparing our hearts to receive again the greatest gift given to humankind: the hope, comfort, joy and glad tidings the baby Jesus brought to earth.
The birth of the Christ child was the fulfillment of God’s promise. This is really good news!
Even though our minds are often distracted by other thoughts, preoccupied with schedules and not always thinking about heavenly things, the Christmas story still clearly speaks to us today. While we live in such a highly competitive society—one that produces winners and losers, not only in sports, but also in the business world, in office settings and even in the church—we have the opportunity to let God come and minister to us in this Christmas season. And even though we live in a world that encourages personal gain, it is important to remember that the same message delivered to the shepherds is shared with you and me. Once again, it is the story of God's love coming down to save, to restore and to forgive. It is a message we have heard before. It is a message of hope that God is with us, looking on.
About hope, retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page says, “When you have no hope, you want to destroy the society around you. When you have hope, you want to protect the society. The goal is to give hope and provide opportunity.”
Choosing hope makes all the difference.
At the heart of the Christmas message there is a baby born who could change everything. Christmas is all about Jesus coming to be with us. It is about Immanuel, God with us, looking on. So despite all the distractions around us, we focus on this hope that exists because of the birth of baby Jesus. We anticipate the joy of experiencing God’s promise fulfilled, and in so doing, our hearts are prepared both to receive the greatest gift and to share it freely with others.
Let us focus on sharing the gift of hope with all whom we meet, and let us remember in prayer those still recovering from the storms of past and present that have caused damage for many people in South Carolina, those who have been elected to lead us in government in our communities, our state and our nation, and let us also remember in prayer the South Carolina Conference delegation along with the global United Methodist Church as all prepare for the called General Conference in February 2019.
May this prayer of hope be a gift to you during the Christmas season:
For every beginning, there is an ending. For every memory, there is a dream. As we share in the excitement of this season and the hope that it offers, may we cultivate the capacity to respect and honor one another. May we live with a purpose bigger than ourselves. May we recognize that our lives will be measured by our actions more than our words. May we be vigilant in service to all regardless of their place or station in life. May we be ever mindful to:
- Watch your thoughts, because they become your words;
- Watch your words, because they become your actions;
- Watch your actions, because they become your habits;
- Watch your habits, because they become your character;
- Watch your character, because it determines your destiny.
May we walk through this Christmas season inspired by the hope found in the birth of baby Jesus and determined to be active members in our churches and in our communities, and may we move beyond ourselves. May the God of grace and mercy go with us.