Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Thrill of Hope

We've been talking about Christmas, of course, and why it might be that those in the inn never came down to the manger. We have looked at several ideas that we can relate with - that there was already enough noise that Christmas, that these were weary travelers too tired for one more thing, or even that their souls were burdened with knowing how close - and yet, how far - they were from home. And I ended yesterday by adding that even though we're tempted to say that Jesus is the answer to all of this, there's a part of me that understands how challenging that is. 

Jesus...doesn't cure my homesickness. In fact, He often makes it worse.

There are so many truths about the human condition, about living in these broken lives far from the places where God intended us to live, that can't be summed up so neatly by putting them into broad categories like noise, weariness, or loneliness. There are so many other little things that just nag at and eat at our souls, that weigh us down with burdens too great to bear. And listen, I know that Jesus is the answer to all of them but at the same time, all that hope lying in the sometimes just downright painful.

It's a confirmation that my soul is right, that something is wrong here. It's confirmation that what I'm feeling is real this season. It's confirmation that things are not the way they are supposed to be and that there really is supposed to be more to life than this. Sometimes, when I look at hope, I can hardly bear it. When I hear promise, I don't want to believe it. When the answer to every ache in my entire being is lying right in front of me in swaddling clothes, there's something in me that still wants to turn away for reasons that I can't explain except to say that my human nature just hurts that bad. 

It's not shame. It's not guilt. It's not fear. It's not anything sinful that makes me turn away from Jesus sometimes in a season like this. It's more's more like the same thing that makes worshipers in the Bible fall straight to their knees in the presence of holiness. It's like I just lose every bit of my strength to do anything else. I can't even stand any more. 

The Christmas carol says one of the things we find in the manger this time of year is the "thrill" of hope, but if we're just being honest with one another, hope isn't always thrilling. Sometimes, it's just heavy. 

There are persons this Christmas who just can't handle good news right now. That sounds so strange to say, I know, but if you understand what I'm saying, then you know this kind of ache most intimately. You get it. There are persons in the inn who hear that baby crying and for any of a thousand little reasons just say to themselves, "I want to...but I can't. I just can't. Not tonight." There are persons for whom this hope, this hope that is meant to be so thrilling, just won't be. Not tonight.

And listen, that's okay, too. Because the one thing Jesus never came to be to you is a burden. 

Tonight, on this hard night, on this dark night, in the midst of your troubled soul, it's okay if you hear that baby cry and for whatever reason, you don't come down out of the inn. It's okay. 

But at least, at the very least, recognize this: you do hear Him crying. No matter how overwhelmed, weary, lonely, burdened, or broken you are in the inn, just looking for rest and respite, you hear Him. 

And if you ever do want to venture down and see what's up, He'll be there. 

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