By Pastor Chris Brown
Bethania Lutheran Church

When Christ was born, he was a promised hope for many people. However, for every single one of them, save maybe his mother Mary, he was not the expected hope. He failed at meeting the expectations of his people, who had been suffering under one oppressive regime after another, and had been crying out for a champion, a chosen one, someone that embodied God’s power who would release them of their perpetual captivity. Instead, they got a poor carpenter from one of their smallest tribes, a man who preached love of enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Jesus was the promised hope, but he was not the expected hope.

Pastor Chris Brown
File photo

We are living in a time where our hopes might not be what we expect them to be. Timelines for this pandemic have been continually pushed back, guidelines about navigating our world have changed from one month to the next, and lights at the end of the tunnel end up being more distant than they seem. It’s difficult to come to terms with hope that does not meet our expectations. Frankly, I don’t think we’re well equipped to adjust when hope doesn’t meet our expectations because we’ve grown in a world where expectations are something we’re told we can control. Of course, most of us know that’s not true.

The Christmas story is special because it’s a direct response to hope expected. The details of Jesus’ humble birth and origin are intentional. They are meant to disrupt hope expected so that we might better see the hope that is promised. If the moment at which God chose to be humanly present in our world is through a persecuted tribe, and more specifically, through a humble and poor person in that tribe, than how much more certain can we be that God is with us in our moments of struggle, doubt, pain, suffering and grief. That is the promised hope of Jesus and it’s a hope that is present no matter what our expectations of the world are. However, our disappointment at our expectations not being met can blind us from seeing hope that is promised. We can become so focused on our real or perceived loss and miss how hope is present in the midst of all things.

I realize many of you might have different beliefs outside of Christianity and I would not try to persuade you to a particular belief with this message. However, I think there is truth here that all people can find. In a time where we can become so focused on missing out on seasonal expectations, hope, love, kindness and compassion are still present. While we’re apart, there are examples everywhere of how together we still are and how much we continue to love one another. It might not meet our expectations, but hopefully it meets our needs. And truth be told, this realization might be the best gift we can receive during these holidays.