Rev David Shosanya explains why, despite the sense of hopelessness with the world, the Christmas story of God sending His Son to earth offers humanity renewed hope for a better tomorrow
The recent elections in the United States of America were hard fought between the now re-elected President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney.
At the heart of both political campaigns was a vision of a new resurgent America that had overcome the many domestic and international challenges she faced as a result of the global recession. In other words, both campaigns were fought, and ultimately won or lost, as a direct result of each candidate’s ability to clearly and convincingly communicate their message, and inspire hope in the minds and hearts of the electorate.
Even the most casual observer would have noted that the theme of hope, which so clearly defined President Obama’s first Presidential campaign, was less pronounced the second time round. Commentators have suggested that, having spent a number of years in office, President Obama had learnt to temper his aspirational rhetoric with practical reality. Whatever the reasons might be, that the message of hope that was captured in the slogan ‘YES, WE CAN!’ was conspicuously absent, or significantly downplayed in President Obama’s 2012 election campaign, the fact stills remains that the world continues to need a message of hope.
Cue Christmas! At the heart of the Christian Church’s message of the forgiving love of God is a Father’s love for a broken and desperately needy world on both a personal as well as communal, societal level. The Bible introduces us to the concept of sin (living in disobedience to God) through the story of Adam and Eve, who lived in the Garden of Eden, a paradise by any stretch of the imagination.
The writer of the book of Genesis allows us to see how their curiosity, amplified and manipulated by the conniving and spurious whisperings of a serpent (representing the devil), led them to act in a manner that directly contradicted God’s plans for their lives. The result was that they were removed from the paradise of the Garden of Eden. It was downhill from there! Before long, the first murder is committed by Cain, who takes the life of his brother, Abel. The single act of violence committed by Cain becomes a lifestyle, as Lamech, a descendant, takes pleasure in extinguishing human life (Genesis 4). Spiritual practices that violate God’s prescribed modes of worship and fellowship are ignored, and foreign practices introduced (Genesis 6). Sin began to spread across the face of the earth (Genesis 4 to 7).
In reality, the world, far from being the paradise that Adam and Eve were once used to, had become a dangerous and unwelcoming place.
But hope was not lost. God’s promise of a future Messiah, Christ (Genesis 3:15), who would reverse the hopelessness of the world as it was, and offer a radical vision of an alternative reality that embodied and expressed God’s hope for the human race and for the physical universe, was something successive generations of Hebrew believers looked forward to. They were hopeful in the face of a myriad of hopeless circumstances and situations, because of what they called an ‘escahatological hope’ (the belief that, in the end, God always wins, irrespective of how it might look in the present). The Christmas story we read about in the pages of the New Testament is a recording of this hope.
So, rather than Christmas being about tangible material things that bring fleeting pleasures, it is, in reality, about discovering in and through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a life that is fuelled with and by the life-giving and inspiring presence of hope.
Christmas can be a time when individuals experience a deep sense of hopelessness. Perhaps it is the result of being away from friends and family due to work or living arrangements; poor health; work-related challenges; the sense of loneliness or isolation; the loss of faith in oneself, one’s community, church, family, or in God Himself. The Christmas season often amplifies the challenges we are facing, especially when we are duped into believing that everyone else will experience a better Christmas season than our own. Hopelessness can easily set in and erode away at any sense of hope that we may have.
While politicians, like President Barack Obama or Governor Mitt Romney, produce election manifestos that it would be unlikely for them to realise, Christ does not. In the Gospel of Luke, we find a record of what theologians call ‘The Jerusalem Manifesto’, the promises that Jesus makes as He sets out on His campaign as God’s Messiah to save the world. The words of that manifesto still stand today as God, through Jesus Christ, continues to bring hope to hopeless people:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19
My prayer is that you are blessed with a hope-filled Christmas and a prosperous 2013.
Rev David Shosanya is a Regional Minister & Director with the London Baptist Association