Many Moods of Christmas: Hope in a Child Luke 1: 26-38

Bruno, like any eight-year-old boy, loves family, enjoys friends, and dreams of adventure.  Bruno is a son of a commandant of a German concentration camp in World War II.  Bruno looks out his room, he sees in the distance what he thinks are farmers; wearing are striped pajamas.  Hence the name of a film that breaks your heart: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Bruno discovers a boy in striped pajamas.  Schmuel is also eight years old, but lives on the other side of a barbed-wire fence.  A friendship develops, and Bruno is surprised to learn his Jewish friend is hungry, scared, and cannot play.  It’s a sweet friendship, the two playing checkers through the fence; outside the gaze of adults.  Neither knew what is happening, but each wished they weren’t apart.  When Schmuel expresses worry about his father, who had disappeared so they devise a plan to look for him.  Schmuel gets a pair of striped pajamas for Bruno.

We are like Schmuel, waiting for someone to come to other side of our predicament and join us in the pursuit of all we have lost.

We begin the 4-week season of Advent.  The literal meaning of the Latin word “adventus” is coming.  Advent is God’s coming in human form, so we may come to God.  It’s a time of longing, which we prepare spiritually for the coming of Christ and the celebration of Christmas.  Others stampede the stores, trying to get to the goods on Black Friday; we wait patiently, knowing what’s really good are not goods at all.  We bide time, conceding parts of our real selves need to be made whole or resolved by the hope, peace, joy and love this season offers.

The theme for advent is, “The Many Moods of Christmas”.  I will not stand before you during Advent give you an ambivalent “I understand” as you express the many moods of the season.  The good news I proclaim during this season is we can bring our real selves to a real person who comes as God in flesh to make us whole.  All the dispositions, which express our unfulfilled and broken lives, can find resolution in the person of God coming in Christ.  We wait for the coming of Christ; bringing the moods of our lives; the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives to this Christ child to find the grace needed.  Today, we bring our longing the hope our soul desires.

At a fundamental level, God designed creation with a yearning for hope.  The cells in our body continually remake themselves.  Aspiration, a desire for life to make more of itself is built into nature.  Biologists understand the technical aspects of procreation, yet its origins remain unknown.  Life seeks not only to survive in a Darwinian sense, but to go beyond what it is.  Hope is programmed into the processes of nature.  Perhaps William Blake shows us he knew this before modern science when he said, “Everything that lives is holy, and life delights in life.  Life delights in making new life”.

What is hope?  Positively, hope is the product of all that is good, but not yet perfect.  Negatively, hope desires to bring together what is separated.  Bruno and Schmeul know in a childlike way they are meant to be together; something is wrong with barbed wire that separates.  We all hope for a union of what is lacking: a union with God, loved ones, and enemies.  We hope for a future unthreatened by tyrants, terrorists, illness, job loss, or setback.  We hope for life not to end, even with death.  Thanks to God who wants hopes fulfilled.  Why else would desire be implanted deeply in us?

God will not be satisfied until the hopes of every person are fulfilled.  In one sense, every child born is nature’s attempt to make the world right, but sin continues to win.  Despite being separated by sin, God’s Spirit fashioned the Christ child in Mary’s womb.  God put on the uniform of flesh and came to our world and into our lives, which longs for hope; offering perfect, unending, and relentless love.  The angel telling Mary she is with a child that was shaped by the Holy Spirit was God making a way to fulfill our hopes; conjoining divine with human.  In opening her womb and entering into human existence, God opens a way for heaven to come to earth to do what only God can do in our lives, fulfill every longing.

Christ in Mary is only the beginning.  God does not just come one time or some times to meet us where we yearn to be made whole.  This Christ child invites us into a relationship so all the places of our lives that have not been made right can find remedy here on earth and ultimately in heaven  Christ wants to be born in you, me, and in all creation.

We try to bring hope by our own hands.  Wars are attempts to cripple evil and secure hope.  Accumulations are attempts to defeat scarcity in order to secure hope.  Hope comes in the gift of a person who invites us into an eternal relationship.  Our hopes are realized when we open ourselves to Christ’s coming into our lives and say with Mary, “Let it be for me according to your word”.  We are invited to receive this gift, allow the Christ child to grow in us, and change us into the person we were created to be.

Once we place faith that heaven has come to meet us on earth and begin to realize our hopes; then God wants us to shows signs of our new life in the way we live our hope among family, friend, and those we serve.  We are to offer the child of Christmas, so others whose hopes are not yet met might hear the call of the hope this Child offers to them in our lives.

Yet, some of us are still wondering why many of our desires remain unfulfilled, though we have said yes to Christ’s coming into our life.  We are like the person who is ill after the doctor gives the medicine.  We trust it will begin to work; hoping to be made well soon.  Recovery requires a recuperative period.  The symptoms will continue to be felt, even as we are being cured.  Although Christ is conceived in Mary, she had to carry him, suffer the pangs of his presence as he grows within and changes her.  Pain is a sign of hope if we have received the one who comes to make us whole.

In the meantime, we give gifts of hope to the world.  We put on the striped pajamas of other people’s travail and join in their search for hope.  We letg go of our own comfort and walking beside them in their suffering and grief; pointing them toward God who can fuel their life with hope that lasts.

The reasons churches have difficulty hearing the cry of the needy and tend to only take care of their own, are they forgot the Christ child put on striped pajamas and joined them while they were yet sinners to offer hope.  It takes a vivid recall to remember that Christ joined us in our needy state and gave us hope.  That memory is what will cause us to join with others in need; helping them have hope their cracked lives can be made whole.

Seventeen years ago, Larry James began work at Central Dallas Ministries.  The first week he bought a giant coffee maker, sat it on a table in the food pantry.  A longtime volunteer approached with aggressive bewilderment.  “What in the world are you doing?” she asked. “I’m making coffee for our guests,” he replied.  A frown rushed across her face and stiffened her frame.  With a mixture of amazement and anger, she counseled, “You can’t do that! If you make coffee, these people will never leave!”  He informed her he wasn’t going to rush people, but get acquainted with as many neighborhood residents as possible.  She turned on her heel and strode out of the pantry, never to return.  Larry’s coffee pot signaled a different perspective on those who suffered the indignity of not having enough food to eat.  The coffee pot screamed: Hey, slow down!  Have a seat.  Tell us your story.  In this place you’ll find we really care about who you are, what you’re dreaming, and how we can find our way together.

There are thousands of ways to give gifts of hope that signal the hope we have in Christ.  We have to be willing to put on some striped pajamas, put on a pot of coffee, or put on our thinking cap and bring our gift to those who may not even know they are waiting for it.  Offer the Christ child of hope to others while you wait during this season for your hopes to be fulfilled.


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