2016 has not been the easiest year for Charlotte or for our nation. This year some of the tensions, prejudices, and divisions in our cities and our nation have been exposed. In our city of Charlotte there have been shootings, violence, protests, and racial unrest. In our state of North Carolina, we have had an acrimonious Governor’s race. Also nationally we have experienced a deeply and bitterly divided electorate with some people overjoyed at the election of Donald Trump and others saddened beyond words!
Looking out at our world beyond our borders has not brought much joy. For example, we have seen the horrific atrocities in Syria, particularly in the ancient city of Aleppo. Hundreds of thousands of people, including children, have been killed. Our watching world has seemed unable or unwilling to prevent these continuing atrocities. In addition to the local, national, and international problems and issues, I am sure most of us have experienced some personal challenges, setbacks, and heartaches. There is no doubt that 2016 has been a tough year all around.
It would be easy to be plunged into despair, bitterness, resentment, and hopelessness. But it is at this very point that the message of Christmas reminds us that there is hope for all the world. Central to Christianity is a message of a new beginning, of a better future, of a better world, of a new life, of hope.
Rather than focusing on the problems, tensions, and hostilities which so easily grip our hearts, this Christmas season I want to encourage you to reflect that God in His grace sends our Lord Jesus Christ into our troubled world. And He comes to us as Immanuel (which means “God with us”). Jesus comes not to condemn us or to judge us, but to save us: to give us a new beginning. Yes, He comes to give us hope. Hope for all the world.
The Gospels remind us that Jesus came “to give light to those who sit in darkness … and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” One of the wonderful descriptions of our Lord is “Prince of peace.” This peace comes not just to a few, but this message of peace, of love, of forgiveness embraces the whole world.
Over 2,000 years ago shepherds and wise men knelt before Jesus, the Son of God, in an act of worship. Down through the centuries millions of people have received Jesus as Savior and Lord into their hearts and lives. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”
At Calvary Church we have planned three Christmas Eve services (4, 6, and 8 PM) and have chosen the theme “Hope for all the World.” This will be a time of healing as well as a time of celebration. It certainly will be a time of hope – hope for all the world. This does not mean that we ignore our personal problems or the problems in our city, state, nation and world. Followers of Jesus Christ are realists, and understand that we live in a world of injustice, suffering, and evil. Yet, God in love sends His Son “to save us from our sins”, and to give us hope. What a transformation there would be in our hearts, our homes, our communities, our nation and our world if each of us personally experienced this hope. This is the message of Christmas: Hope for all the world.