It was the wee hours of the morning the Sunday before Christmas. Honestly the Spirit of Christmas was the furthest thing from my heart or mind. Instead I laid awake thinking about the pain. The pain that no doctor seemed to be able to find relief for and the only medication that took the edge off left me laying awake at night making my mind vulnerable to attacks such as these.
It was as if Despair was sitting on my bedside table. I listened to John and Abby breathing as they lay next to me asleep. Would I be able to be there for them they way that they needed me to? What was my life going to look like in 10 years? I tried hard to shake the thoughts and instead tried to capture visions of sugarplums but I was unsuccessful. The words, “I’m sorry. There is nothing we can do,” that I seemed to have been hearing so frequently rang out loudly despite the silence of the night. I eventually did find sleep but the last thought I had before finally drifting off was “I feel so hopeless.”
Sunlight finally came and it was time to get ready for church. I shook off the night as much as I could before heading out the door. We were late of course but I had to admit that Abby looked adorable in her Christmas dress so I couldn’t help but smile when I looked in my mirror and saw her in the backseat as I drove.
After dropping her off at the nursery, I walked into the worship service and found a seat. The music played but honestly I’m not sure how much I was listening. I heard it but not sure how much I really listened. The time came for the lighting of the advent candle and the message. The theme – HOPE. I could feel my eyes begin to burn.
This is my 29th Christmas and I have heard the Christmas story taught in many different ways but never, ever has it been so personal. Never have I seen Mary in the same light.
We all know the story of how Mary was visited by Gabriel, the angel, who told her that she would give birth to the Savior despite being a virgin. It was at this time that she had to make a choice and her choice was to respond by saying “may it be done according to your word.” Saying yes would mean having to tell her parents and pledged husband that she was pregnant with the Messiah, facing the possibility of being stoned should Joseph choose to accuse her of adultery, and possible face charges from the Romans. Her choice was to be bold or to despair. She chose boldness and in the words of my pastor said, “Let’s do this.”
Mary had HOPE. Instead of freaking out and curling up into a ball (which is probably what I would have done) instead she chose to sing and her song is a song of hope and she knows that God delivers on His Word.
There are two points of the sermon that truly stood out to me. Rob stated that Hope springs from Faith and that Faith is not the absence of doubt (which many of us are fooled into believing) but instead Faith is following God despite doubt. Also, Hope inspires Courage and Courage is not the absence of fear but Courage is following God in the face of our fears.
Sometime ago, I wrote a post called Wrestling Match where I described how my faith journey was impacted by my chronic illness diagnosis. It took quite some time for me to see how my theology and illness could line up but it did and in that I found Hope. Never did I think that I would find a connection between Hope and my illness in the Christmas story so believe me when I say that the Word is truly alive. It has something for each and every one of us in our time of need.
I left Sunday’s service with more than the Spirit of Christmas. I also left with a spirit of Hope and Courage. God knows that I will continue to have my doubts and fears along this journey and there will be times were Despair may once again seek me out but I choose to have Hope. I choose to say, “Let’s do this.”
If you need a boost in your spirit, I really recommend listening to Rob’s sermon. To listen, click here and then click sermon launcher and select “Hope.”
I hope that HOPE finds you this Christmas!