When Hopes and Fears Meet Jesus
December 25, 2019

Christmas Eve
“When Hopes and Fears Meet Jesus”

{Audio File: https://mega.nz/#!WM11RKba!XcZIelewoOgfqgXM_c2CG3svENvLdvejiaB2NXuS8CI}

The beginning lyrics of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

What caught my attention was this last lyric; “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” What does that mean?

The “thee,” not being in capitals, would indicate that the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Bethlehem that night. This could only be the case because the Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem on that night.

So, how do our hopes and fears meet in Jesus and in His coming?

Now I know this Christmas carol isn’t Scripture, but it still caught my attention to where I wanted to know more.

The text was written in 1868 by Phillips Brooks, an Episcopal priest of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia. He was inspired when he visited Bethlehem in 1865. He arrived in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve and traveled six miles south to Bethlehem where he was struck by its stillness and darkness. Hence the lyrics, “In thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light.”

And then he wrote how hopes and fears met that night in Jesus.

Hope and fear are probably the two most common emotions that we have. And to think that both were resting on Jesus that night.

Every generation has known both hope and fear. And as we get ready to celebrate this Christmas, which will be stronger: our hopes or our fears.

If we look at the Christmas story found in both Luke and Matthew, we see the same thing, two stories about the same event, but from a different viewpoint. Luke’s gospel deals with hope, while Matthew’s gospel deals with fear.

In Luke’s account we see the shepherds who were keeping watch over the sheep by night when they were surrounded by God’s glory. And while they were afraid, the angel told them not to be, telling them good tidings of great joy, of how the Savior, the Messiah, Christ the Lord was born that night.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NKJV)

Matthew’s gospel, however, is filled with the darkness of men’s fear, as King Herod, after he heard the Wise Men’s account that the king of the Jews had been born, ordered the execution of all male children in Bethlehem up to two years old.

Matthew describes this horror quoting the prophet Jeremiah, “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15 NKJV)

And while Matthew’s gospel shows these fears realized, there is something greater at work, something that brings nothing but hope. It is found in what the angel told Joseph that the child conceived inside of Mary is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).

And so what is happening at Christmas is a hope that is beyond all of our fears, and that is, the Holy Spirit is at work, and when the Holy Spirit is at work, powerful things happen.

Consider the first church and how dark it was for the disciples. Yet into this darkness on the Feast of Pentecost came tongues of fire, along with the wind of the Holy Spirit, and new life was breathed into the disciples and the church was formed.

And so, no matter how dark and dangerous the world is, no matter how afraid and disappointed we may be, and where it seems like darkness is creeping into our souls, all we need to do is to ask Jesus and He will send the Holy Spirit, and He will bring hope from out of our fears.

The birth of Jesus takes place in a world of fear and without hope. The Jews lived under the ruthless reign of the Roman Empire. It was also a place of backstabbing and intrigue, as both political and religious leaders jockeyed for position, leaving their adversaries dead in the streets. You see, everything they put their hope in had failed. Religion failed. Uprisings failed. Politics failed.

And I think we can say the same thing about the world we live in. We live in fear over threats of terrorism and economic collapse. We fear that the Lord’s hand will be taken off our nation as our society systematically removes God from our schools, courthouses, and money.

And everything people have tried and put their hope in has failed. Religion has failed. Politics has failed. And economics has failed.

And so like the very first Christmas we’re living in a world of increasing darkness where fear and hopelessness prevail.

And as these days grow short and the temperatures drop, we string up Christmas lights and wish each other a Merry Christmas trying to assure ourselves that all is indeed well, but like that first Christmas it wasn’t, and it isn’t.

I find it ironic that Christmas comes on what is considered the darkest day of the year. In other cultures and religions, bonfires are lit to help give light and heat back to the sun.

Now, no one is sure when Jesus was born, but it’s significant that we celebrate Jesus’s birth during this time, because the birth of Jesus brought light into the darkest times. The Light of the World was born at the darkest time of the year.

And so this Christmas carol joyously announces deliverance from all that haunts the human predicament, that it will bring Everlasting Light on the darkest of nights.

To understand this a little bit more, let’s look at the prophecy given by Isaiah.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV)

This prophecy was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, who actually fulfilled over 300 prophecies of the coming Messiah.

It is no accident, therefore, when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds that it happened at night when the God’s glory shined in the darkness. Much like the beginning of Creation, as light shined in the darkness of chaos and brought order, so the birth of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation in the midst of chaos’s darkness.

The price then for our hope comes not only from Jesus’s birth, but also from His death, as He took our place upon the cross and died for our sins. And through His death, Jesus conquered both sin and death.

When talking about our fears, I think most would say that their greatest fear is death. Dr. Samuel Johnson, who gave us our first English dictionary, said that most people spend the entirety of their lives going from one diversion to another trying not to think about their own mortality.

So when we sing that all our fears are met in Christ, it was Jesus who met and took away this fear through the hope that only He provides.

Jesus said, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:18 NKJV)

Therefore, it is in Jesus where our hopes lay, and our hopes are met in Jesus as He came to open the door of eternity and heaven to all who would believe in Him.

One of the wonderful things that Jesus did was to destroy not only the fear of death, but to destroy death itself, and to give everlasting life to those who would place their trust Him.

And so fear has been replaced by hope, the hope that can only come from Jesus Christ.

And so let the light of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, shine in your life dispelling the darkness of fear, and bringing with it the hope of His presence and eternal life in Heaven.

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