Christmas: A Defiant Hope

By Makaila Mobley

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Maybe you are feeling cheery and festive today, or maybe you are contending with profound loneliness or sorrow. Maybe you are doing the merry thing but there is a current of despair running just below the surface. Maybe you are enjoying the festivities, but things do come up, family parties, work parties, messy people bumping into (or plowing over) other broken, messy people. Throughout this time in the Kingdom calendar our lives will be a swirling blend of good and evil. We live in a world at war and we do not emerge from life unscathed. We all have battle wounds. And darkness is still present even as we celebrate.

Christmas is about having a defiant hope in the face of overwhelming darkness.

Read with me, this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And then together, with the Holy Spirit at work in each of our souls, knowing the particulars of us and our stories, lets see if we can unpack just how Christmas is a statement of defiant hope.

Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

This poem I have long loved for its sudden twist from a Christmas carol to earth-shattering tragedy so suddenly and then the closing triumphant statement of defiant faith. The darkness will try to invade our lives, in cannon fire and stealthy thievery, it threatens our nation, our homes, and our hearts. But the light has come and the darkness will not overcome it.

Usually, the enemy of our souls throws darkness and evil and oppression in our faces in an attempt to utterly overwhelm us. Which can make us doubt that God is near because he usually doesn’t throw his light in our faces with overwhelming power. That is where faith comes in. Its the trust that our Lord is good, and near and clever enough to know how to triumph over evil in our particular circumstance.

Tempted to Give Up

This feels very personal to me today as this past week has been a flooding of darkness, ancient history darkness emerging from the bog in which the dark beast has slumbered for years. And I’ll admit I’ve been tempted to give up and let the darkness have its way, I’ve been tempted to harden my heart and stop caring and stop investing in others, and I’ve been tempted to act faithless and let fear rule and reign in my life.

But God has been gracious and He has reached out a hand, a hand I cannot see in the darkness, but I feel his presence and I grope around, reaching out to him, and he latches onto me. God so rarely smacks us in the face with his light the way the devil will knock us over and smother us with his darkness, but that does not mean that God has left us alone in the darkness.

A Wise and Cunning Hero

He is a wise and cunning hero, who devises a plan in secret and plots his steps of rescue with meticulous precision and daring boldness, timing is crucial, and cooperation (from us) necessary.

I will wait on the Messiah to rescue me every time. I will trust with faith and a defiant hope in the face of utter darkness. I will love, I will invest, I will keep my heart soft and pure for my deepest desire is to see the face of God and no threat will overpower the work of Christ in me.

Resit the Devil and Draw Near to God

I am reminded of James 4:7 where we are told to resist the devil and he will flee from us, and draw near to God and he will draw near to us. The way to fight off the darkness is to resist it. Its that simple. Resist the advances of the enemy and he will flee. We are to put ourselves in position where we are right up next to God, submitting fully to him. We are to become allies of God, and serve him faithfully in love and devotion throughout this war.

Commit Your Way to the Lord

Psalm 37:5-7 also comes to mind when I read Longfellow’s Christmas Bells.

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,  and your justice as the noonday.  7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:5-7 ESV)

This passage reminds me to trust God with a focus of vision, even when I am tempted to think that darkness will prevail, to keep my eyes averted from that which is meant to deceive and to trust God with a resounding peace that comes from the deep knowing that he is near, and that he will act on our behalf. And through such faith, we will be delivered from the darkness and brought into the light, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light.”

Trust in the Brilliance and Goodness of God

Want to know something that makes me trust my God all the more, take a look at this verse from Daniel 2:22 (ESV):

“he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.”

God is not deceived by the darkness, he see it all for what it really is. He knows what lies in the shadows and what’s more, he can even use what lies in the shadows for his good and holy purposes, taking what Satan intended for evil and using it to rescue us and bring us closer to our restoration.

Do Not Lose Heart

We must keep that defiant hope even if we find ourselves in enemy territory. Stay true and do not loose sight of the truth. Even in this we are not alone, God empowers us to have faith and hope. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 4:7-8, 16-18

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)

Know that the Light will not be Overcome

We can have confidence even now, even as we live in a fallen world not yet fully restored. We can have confidence that restoration is coming, it will be completed, indeed, it is already underway. Our confidence comes from Christ alone, who came in the world, the light of the world wrapped in humbleness. Like a king disguised as a beggar he walked among us, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) Yes, the darkness threatens, but as long as we hold onto our hope in Jesus, our hope that he is with us and for us, our hope that “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail” the hope that even when things are a mess, “all is well and all shall be well” because Jesus has brought us back into relationship with our God and that is all our souls need to be complete, nothing and no one else.

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