Hope does not always wear a smile

Silent night… Holy night… All is calm… All is bright… Sleep in heavenly peace.

And yet, what about Manipur? What about Myanmar? Palestine? Ukraine? There is so little silence, so little calm, so little peace.

Very often we sanitize the Christmas story. We make it sound neat and tidy. Yet, according to the Bible, Jesus is Immanuel — God with us — especially in the midst of human suffering. In fact, the first Christmas was anything but a silent night — there was state-sponsored brutality and terrible suffering all around. Jesus perhaps could not sleep in heavenly peace — his family was fleeing government persecution and entered Egypt as immigrants seeking asylum there.

Hope into a barbaric world

The chronicler of the Christmas story, Matthew, quotes from Jeremiah 31 to show the suffering that was seen in Bethlehem. Verse 15 of Jeremiah 31 says:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Jeremiah 31:15 ESV

Jeremiah is describing the mourning that took place due to Rachel’s children being taken captive as exiles into Babylon. In quoting Jeremiah, Matthew is hinting at the hope that was being introduced into this story of suffering. Verse 16, goes on to say,

Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future…”

Jeremiah 31:16-17 ESV (Emphasis added)

Out of the exile will spring hope. The son of exile, Jesus, will save the people from their sins. And eventually, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev 21:4)

Jesus was born into the world so that one day we wouldn’t have to weep anymore. And yet, he came and wept (John 11:35). Hope has already come into the world, but the tears have not yet been taken away. And so we weep while still having hope. Hope does not always wear a smile.

Hope for our barbaric world

Our world is not all that different from the world into which Jesus was born. We still see political leaders, insecure about their hold on power, unleashing terror on innocent civilians. Our news reports often speak of innocent civilians fleeing persecution and seeking asylum as refugees in a foreign land.

The world is still barbaric.

And yet, there is hope.

Because of Christmas, there is hope.

We can mourn and still hope.

Hope does not always wear a smile.

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