No matter what kind of year 2019 has been for you and me, everyone hopes that 2020 will be better! Clearer direction. Adequate income. No losses. Growing and satisfying friendships. And yet, without any prompting whatever, we have these low-grade anxieties about what the future holds.  There are a lot of reasons. Generations before who have taken way more than their share. Rampant hatred that has metastasized in places all around the world. We’re fed this stuff all the time – by media outlets built on selling news and creating fear! So – is this our destiny? Is anxiety and fear something we just need to get used to – or can we push back?

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The Hopes and Fears of All the Years ARE MET IN THEE TONIGHT

No one in Bethlehem would ever guess what was happening. In fact, a lot of the small towns would’ve been much better places to hail from – like Jerusalem, City of David – just 7 miles away. But this night, it would be Bethlehem, David’s home town. And there was a reason; the prophet, Micah, had said 700 years earlier that out of Bethlehem would come a ruler. No one ever suspected it was God – who looked just like every other baby. He who had seen everything come into being would not see much that night – because every newborn’s vision is blurred. But what God had seen and noted, were the hopes and fears of every person who had ever lived – and who would ever live. And His everlasting love for, and care for, and concern for, all those people – would be concentrated in a tiny wailing baby – whose soft cry split history for all time.

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The fear of loss and death has been haunting humankind ever since sin came into the world. Creation is good; the animal kingdom is precious; humankind is capable of amazing compassion and generosity and kindness and brilliance. But we are also capable of unthinkable acts of brutality. We are at our worse when we are afraid; and especially when we are afraid of death and loss. Death, see, steals everything. The alternative – is the hope that death is simply the pause between life…and more life. The peace offered to us from a loving God – in the vulnerable form of a baby boy, is the hope that all good things will be restored. It’s hope. Hope for this life – for whatever comes our way. Hope for eternity – that all things will be restored by the one who grew up to say, “I am the resurrection and the life!” Jesus coming made it clear that death and dying and loss do not win!

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Longing for, hoping for love – or at least to be noticed – is one of the deepest driving forces in our world. Sometimes animals die – looking for love! So do humans. We seem to be caught in this quandary. Do I risk one of my greatest fears – rejection – for something I want more than anything else; love and acceptance. Where the fear gets really intense – is when you’ve found love and acceptance – and then experienced rejection – and the intense loneliness and pain that leaves behind. God created us in his image – for love! To love and be loved! On that Christmas night, He risked rejection – so He could love us. Some love Him in return; others still reject Him.

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Most of us want to do more than just eat, breathe, breed and die. We have eternity in our hearts – we’ve been made in the image of God. But eternity is not the same as courage. When we look at the price tag for making a difference, it usually involves some kind of exposure to failure or difficulty.  So, when God calls our name – quietly – when we’re alone together, we think, “Okay! What’s this about?” In a world like this, we’re used to being used; that is, someone takes what’s good and discards us. Actually, the cost of not listening and answering – is way greater.

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Hope is a constant companion through life. We hope we make it through the teen years. We hope we’ll make the cut when it comes to teams, jobs and friends. We hope that we’ll stay healthy, that people will like us and want us around, that we’ll live a normal life, have children, and get out of debt. But for most of us, our hopes – at least one of them – gets snagged along the way. And then we hope things will change – but we’re afraid they won’t. Waiting eats away at our hope and we get to a point of despair; Things will never change – it’s too late! It’s surprising at how many re-runs this story has in the Bible. Keep hoping!

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