[These are my notes from my testimony at Hillview’s Carols By Candlelight event on Sunday 20 December 2015.]
More often than not, when I stand at this lectern, it’s to preach our weekly sermon here at the church. I take whatever Bible passage we’re looking at that week, and try and explain those verses as best I can, with God’s help.
But that’s not what Scott asked me to do tonight. Along with the others, I’m here to share a testimony – a personal reflection on the question, “What hope does the Christmas message bring to you?”
So here goes….
1. The Christmas messages gives me hope that there’s hope.
This isn’t abstract. Jesus truly does bring me real practical, meaningful help and hope that makes a real difference in real life.
That God has come to us, and that He is – through the Spirit – still today, bringing about Jesus’ plan to make all things new, makes every difference every single day.
2. Because of Christmas, I have hope that God will never give up on me.
Though I sin and stumble and prefer my own selfish, prideful ways to God’s; though I all-too-often act out of anger and frustration; when my words are inconsistent with my actions or thoughts, I am reminded Jesus came to save sinners like me – He really is my only hope.
3. Christmas reminds me that my failures don’t define me.
I can feel so inadequate as I read in the Scriptures about who God wants me to be, and with such a broad range of issues; everything from becoming aware of my disconnectedness from the poor, to the sense of failure and disappointment when I stand on the bathroom scales.
When that despair creeps in, Christmas reminds me that my failures don’t define me – that Jesus’ perfect, abundant life is mine to embrace and realise more day by day.
4. Hope for my family.
When I look beyond myself to my family, fears about my children’s wellbeing can press in, and I become all-too-aware of the ways I fall short as a dad. In those moments, my only hope is to remind myself that they have a perfect Father in heaven who didn’t even withhold His own Son for them.
When the heavy fog of stress creeps into our home – brought on by discord, or ill-health, or any other disappointment – I know I can find hope in Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
5. The message of Christmas gives me hope for when I feel like a failure in my job.
When I look beyond my family to my role here as a pastor…
– when I don’t know the bible well enough to give people the answers they need
– when I fail to live up to the membership promises I so often extol
– when I feel overwhelmed by the tragedies those in the church are facing, and am all-too-aware of my inadequacies as their pastor
– when my leadership becomes an obstacle to the church moving forward
– etc. etc.
Through all of that I have hope, because I know that if God Himself entered the mess of this world for His people, then I know He will enter the mess of this church – all too often caused or exacerbated by the mess of this pastor – and He’ll take that mess and make something beautiful.
6. Because of Christmas I have hope for this hurting world.
When I look beyond this church to the broken world we see when we turn on the news, I can live in perfect hope, because I know Jesus came to shine light in that darkness. He even wants to use me to do that.
7. Hope for the normal days.
When all the above disappointments are numbed by the mundane realities of tax returns and telephone calls; and when those struggles are muted by the fun of friendship or the escape of a TV boxset, still then I must hope.
Because of Christmas, even my best stress-free, laughter-filled day of joy do not come close to comparing to the eternal peace and joy that Jesus bought for me in coming to this earth as my Saviour and Lord.
Christmas brings me hope because Jesus came to bear my sorrows, and to make my joy complete. He has done that; He is doing that; He will do that. My hope is in Him.