Minister’s letter for December

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!….The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” How many times will you sing this carol in the Advent and Christmas season? The last line of the first verses “the hopes and fears” is intriguing. What fears meet in Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth? Herod’s fear that he will lose power to the infant King? Herod represents all authority figures who jealously and violently guard their power, so are all world rulers now afraid? Or perhaps is it our fears of being judged and rejected by God? Does the birth of Christ cause us to worry that we are not good enough and that Jesus the Light of the World will now shine on us and expose our dark thoughts? I think such negative ideas about our anxieties about failing God don’t fit with the idea that it is hopes as well as fears that “meet” in Christ’s birth. I believe that Jesus is the answer to our fears, not the cause of them. All that worries us, that sometimes overwhelms us, can be brought to Jesus’ crib and surrendered there. In place of fear, Jesus gives us love and peace, just as the angels sang. When our hearts and minds are filled with love and peace, then fear finds there is “no room” to stay. One of my favourite Bible verses is the reassuring “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18) Isn’t all this talk of hope overcoming fear, worry and anxiety a bit overoptimistic? The dark months may make us turn inward and ruminate too much, the desire to have the best Christmas may lead to stress to make it happen just as we imagine. We are called to bring our hopes to Jesus as well, but sometimes those hopes seem unrealisable to us. We hope for a better future for our families, we hope for peace in our world, we hope for justice and equity and yet everywhere we look in hope we may find signs of discouragement in the climate crisis, wars and negative political discourse. God is the eternal optimist. Placing God’s own Son in the animals’ feeding trough and entrusting his safety to a newly married couple who are about to face the trauma of fleeing Joseph’s home-town, God takes a risk that Jesus will be able to grow into the Son of Man who seeks and saves the lost. Our hopes are truly met and fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. It is through his birth, life, death and resurrection that our hopes for love, peace, justice, life, are turned into reality, no matter how far-fetched they seem in our moments of fear. God the eternal optimist is willing to take another great risk by entering our lives, drawing us into a deeper relationship with God, that transforms us more and more into His image. Or as the carol puts it “O holy Child of Bethlehem….Be born in us today!”
This entry was posted in Advent, Minister's Letter, Notices.