Read Romans 15:4-13
I love Christmas. I really do. But sometimes, Christmas seems farther away the closer we get to it. As if time seems to slow down as the preparations for the season threaten to block out our ability to see the coming of Jesus as the “eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus who hasn’t said a word yet.” We’ve got presents to purchase, meals to fix, houses to clean, and the work we have to get done before we can take the Christmas vacation we’ve been banking on since Labor Day. And that doesn’t even take into account Christmas cantata practice, volunteering for three nights in the sleet as a shepherd for the living nativity, delivering cookies, and singing carols to the shut-ins. And that’s if everything goes right!
Sometimes, we can lose sight of Jesus in the midst of preparing for his coming, as if the season of Advent is a grind rather than a celebration, a thought-provoking time of reflection. It’s not just about the things to do but the people we do them with, and the way those people are dealing with their own particular brand of stress and frustration. Still, time after time, the beauty of what Jesus actually did by coming as a baby rises up, and flattens those moments when our long-awaited Christmas bonus doesn’t come through, or we don’t get the presents we expect, or we end up reliving the Christmas pasts that we messed up (hopefully not, anyway!)
In Romans 15:4-13, Paul reminds the church that God can give them the same attitude toward their lives, and each other, that Jesus had. He reminds his hearers to accept each other, just like they were accepted by Jesus, so that those who do not yet believe will see their witness and recognize God. That those who have not yet received God’s truth would see God’s truth in the ways that God’s followers live their lives. He urges them to claim hope, and joy, and peace for themselves, so that hope would overflow out of them.
Is there really any better time to “overflow with hope” than right now? In the midst of our momentary troubles, our stress in the midst of Christmas preparations, in the world we live in challenged by death and decay, can we overflow with hope in the way we celebrate the first coming of Jesus? Can our preparations in Advent be so different from the way the world anticipates Christmas, that others would notice our faith and recognize the true meaning of Christmas?
I pray for you this year, that the Spirit of God would descend upon you and overwhelm you; that you would know for yourself the peace, love, and hope of Jesus’ first and second coming; that you would recognize that Jesus has accepted you and that you don’t need to outdo anyone to show your Christmas spirit. You just have to be yourself in Christ, and recognize that God’s deliverance in Jesus Christ gives us the opportunity to overflow with hope.