In 1868, minister Phillips Brooks wrote the wonderful Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” after a trip to the Holy Land and seeing the nighttime Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine. It has been a beloved Christmas classic now for over 150 years.
Some of the words in this song I find to be quite intriguing:
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting life
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
These last two lines are incredibly meaningful. Hope and fear. Think about their relationship.
They both involve the future. For instance, fear operates in the realm of the imagination. It’s all about the uncertainty over the future and always involves circumstances and events that have the potential to turn out badly. It can create all kinds of pain and havoc in our lives. Fear can be quite destructive.
On the other hand, there is power in hope, though so many of us do not understand this. In our vocabulary today the word “hope” is generally thought of as “wishing.” This is a vague longing for something we desire, but find unlikely to happen.
Biblical hope is generally used as a noun and is a life-shaping certainty of something that has not happened yet but you know will. In hope there is a confident certainty in the future, yet with fear there is a debilitating uncertainty over what the future holds.
What we need to understand is that we are hope based creatures. We can’t live without hope. This is why people who see the future as utterly hopeless, will often lose the will to live.
Victor Frankl was a very famous Jewish psychiatrist that spent several years in a Nazi death camp. He was fascinated by the fact that many of the prisoners who seemed to be so strong and together, at one point just gave up and died. Yet some remained incredibly strong and they survived, and he tried to determine what made the difference. He concluded it was all about the hope they had about the future. He says, “Life in a concentration camp exposes your soul’s foundation. Only a few of the prisoners were able to keep their inner liberty and inner strength.” And then he says these powerful words: “Life only has meaning, in any circumstances, if we have a hope that neither suffering, circumstances, nor death itself can destroy.”
This is what Jesus offers the world, a hope that overcomes the fears of life. Peter calls it a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). The writer of Hebrews, in speaking of Jesus says, “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
Is Jesus your hope? Is He the anchor of your soul? If you put your ultimate hope in anything of this world, whether it be success, wealth, or prestige, you will find that there will be a sound note of insecurity and fear in your life. The reason is because you have no ultimate future and overtime you begin to realize your life is not leading anywhere significant.
So as we approach Christmas and think of the little child born in Bethlehem, let us be reminded, He is a living Hope. He is the Hope that provides an anchor for our soul. Thanks be to God!
I pray that you have a most blessed Christmas!