This time of year is often marked by four words.
Hope: In a world where we are not sure what tomorrow will bring, hope is the belief that tomorrow can be better than today. It is the belief that God has not given up on humanity and that hope was realised with the arrival of Christ. It is also the hope that one day Jesus will return. It is vital when life and circumstances overwhelm.
Peace: In a world that is marked by discord, brokenness, shame, strife and chaos, the ancient Hebrew yearned for ‘shalom’ or peace. Shalom was more than the absence of conflict or strife. It is the presence of wholeness and completeness, and the presence of the goodness of God.
Love: In a world too often marked by hate. The ultimate expression of love is that, which is unconditional and undeserved. At the incarnation the possibility of this kind of love came to earth. Jesus cared for the hurting, the oppressed and the outcast. He loved those who so often felt hated.
Joy: In a world that has been marked by more grief than joy over the last week, the reminder of hope, peace and love can bring joy. In the very first Christmas, there is the inclusion of shepherds. People who by their profession were often excluded from coming near the presence of God because they were considered unclean. There is joy for these men who have angels appear to them and tell them the news that every Israelite for thousands of years has been waiting for. The news of the imminent birth of the Messiah. It is a reminder that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, and irrespective of what life might throw at you, there is a God who sees you and invites you to know Him.
In a week which has been seen such a tragedy, in Sydney and Pakistan. In a week when hope, peace, love and joy may have seemed elusive, perhaps we need to remember the story of Christmas. The story of God who came into our world, so that we do not have to live without hope, so that we would know peace and feel love, and so that we might know a joy which only God can bring.