[ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Slywka lives in Regina with his beautiful wife Sarah, and his darling 9-month-old daughter, Annabelle. He is passionate about cycling, and about seeing people live in the light of who God is.]
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
This line from the famous Christmas carol has been ringing in my head throughout the Advent Season.
As you surely know (if you have been following this Advent Blog) we have been reflecting on the theme of ‘Hope’ together as a faith community – gladly embracing the hope of Christ as we celebrate his birth, both in history, and anew in our lives each day by the Holy Spirit.
Lord knows we need this, for it seems to me that hope is everywhere opposed by fear. The fear that springs from daily reminders that our world is so desperately broken; that human-kind is so awfully adept at terrorizing one another. The fear that manifests itself in the movements of empires, warring for control of the earth and the allegiance of men; just as it does in my own heart and mind, when I exclude, when I withhold, and when I draw the line ever sharper between “us” and “them”.
And still the words of that carol resound in my mind.
How could it be that the spiralling lines of mankind’s hope and fear converged upon that manger in Bethlehem?
The desperate cry of God’s people, for deliverance from the hands of their enemies, and the evil emanating from their own souls – that his salvation might be revealed and peace restored. The yearning of every human heart for the tyranny of evil and death to somehow be ended, and our yearning for unspoiled beauty and loving relationship to be finally, fully realized. All questioned by the nagging sense that maybe our hopes have been misplaced, that maybe we are abandoned to this mess – our hope for deliverance nothing more than a wishful dream – that life is just a meaningless charade, and death the final word.
As we again approach the manger this Advent Season, let us be captured anew by the significance of what we find there; of Who we find there. And as we gather to light candles and sing carols, let us not mistake what is going on here – what we celebrate at this time: this is not just a quaint tradition to warm our hearts and briefly still the clamouring voices of doubt and fear that ring in our heads; this is nothing less than the recreation of all reality.
In the light of Who was found in that manger – in the light of the Incarnation – everything has changed. God is ever and truly “with us”. And having been joined to God in the person of Jesus Christ the Son – “by whose descent among us the worlds are reconciled” (Richard Wilbur) – we can now stand together with the Apostle Paul to boldly proclaim: “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hope and fear are themselves redefined in the light of Him who is “the light of all mankind”. In Him our hope for deliverance, for renewal, for the restoration of peace, is now secure. And what of fear? It can be nothing but an illusion, in the company of Him who has defeated every enemy – evil, brokenness, mourning and pain, even death itself. “The hopes and fears of all the years” are surely answered at the manger in Bethlehem, as God’s Word breaks the silence of that night.
The world was lost, but Christ was born. Rejoice, all creation!