I was greeted by a man in a Santa hat when I went to pick up my car from the shop the other day. It was a damp, dreary, rainy day. His Santa hat got us talking about the wonder of the season and we both shared our dreams of a white Christmas. Of course, I have other hopes and dreams too. You have hopes and dreams as well. Or maybe some fears. I have some of those too.
Our hopes and fears live in the future and they may be tethered to our past. Our hopes are a vision for what may be. Our fears are a nagging sense that our hopes may not come to be. Our hopes are called the anchor of our soul - our heart’s longings waiting to be known. Fear is at home in the dark. It likes to sneak up and overshadow the light of possibility. Fear is the weight that holds you back for good or for ill. Hope dwells in the light and paves the way to possibility.
I am mindful of hopes and fears right now. There is a phrase from a Christmas carol that has been playing in the back of my mind: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Isn’t that the heart of Christmas?
Interestingly, in the Bible, Mark, Luke, and John all begin their account by talking about heaven opening and God coming to us. It happens as a promise fulfilled through Jesus’s baptism in Mark. The heavens are torn open and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove.
Luke and John both harken back to the very beginning of the Bible and the story of Jacob's dream. In his dream, heaven opened for him as well. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending from earth to heaven and back again to him. He saw and experienced God coming into his life. In John, Jesus tells us “You will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on me.” (John 1:51) Luke tells us about heaven opening and angels descending and ascending as he tells the story of Jesus coming. He wants us to know that God's coming to us is something that happened. The shepherds get it. They say, “Let us go and see this thing that happened.” What happened? The heavens opened and love came down to be with us. The heavens opened, bringing a new way to live and be.
When the heavens opened, the promise of one coming who would enter the darkness and bring us light was realized. For those who heard the angels and saw the Christ child and let the light shine into their hearts, a new way of living dawned on them. When the heavens opened, the long-expected one - the Christ child, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting, Father, Prince of Peace came to us and when he came, all our hopes and fears met in him. Our hopes and fears met in a promise fulfilled. The promise is that there is a love that will come to you and stay.
In him, we can dare to hope and be freed from our fears because we are not alone. He is with us. In his birth, something new is born in us. Love came down at Christmas in Jesus and stayed. That’s the best part. We can be with him.
The song, O Little Town of Bethlehem ends:
O holy child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today!
… O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!