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“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

JOHN 1:5

Each Christmas season is filled with joy, excitement, and hope—decorations, parties, commercials, movies, and TV specials building our expectation and excitement for the celebration of December 25. But for some, there may be circumstances in life that make joy, excitement, and hope difficult to grasp. If you find yourself in this group, you are not alone.

This same feeling of hopelessness was likely felt by most Jewish people in the weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus. They knew the promises of God, but those promises may never have seemed further from reality. The nation of Israel was living under foreign rule by Herod, a descendant of Esau, despite God’s promise that Esau’s descendants would serve Israel. And Herod had also arrogantly built the Herodian, a large palace at the highest point of the Judean desert, by taxing and enslaving the Israelites. The Israelites were living, literally and figuratively, in the shadow of this foreign rule.


While it’s true that the Israelites were hoping for a Messiah, a promised Deliverer, there was nothing about the Israelites’ current circumstances that would suggest they should have any hope of God fulfilling His promises at that time.


But, even when it may not appear to be true, God is at work fulfilling His promises, and His faithfulness is often displayed how and when we least expect it. An Israelite would likely never have imagined that the Messiah would be born in a manger at the foot of the palace of a foreign ruler. They also weren’t likely to anticipate that Jesus would not only be the promised Deliverer for Israel but would also bring redemption for the whole world through His death and resurrection.


But that’s what hope is. Hope is found in the conviction that God is love and He is faithfully at work fulfilling His promises, even when our circumstances may suggest otherwise. To hold fast to hope does not mean we live in denial of hurt, pain, and grief, but to live with the conviction that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.” May you know the hope of Christmas this year as a deep conviction that is unmoved by life’s circumstances.


ACTIVITY: Find an empty mason jar or other container. Cut a few sheets of paper into strips and leave the strips by the jar along with some pens or markers—somewhere everyone will see it regularly. Each day in December, add to the jar different messages of hope or words of encouragement. In 2023, you can pull out words of hope whenever you need them!