Christmas Is the Season of Hope

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“The Season of Hope.”

Those are the words emblazoned across the gift bag I just puttered past in our bedroom.

And so it is, this great season of Christmas. A season when hope takes center stage.

And, sorry if this is picky, I really do think the season is a good deal more hope-full when we realize that it’s a season, not just a day that ends on the last gasp of December 25 and vanishes once the wrapping paper hits the floor. (Google it. Many centuries of history are on my side.) It’s a season that begins on the Day and runs for twelve days. Hence the song.

You know, “lords a-leaping” and “swans a-swimming” and “French hens,” etc. And how many “golden rings”? Five, I think. I’ve always been partial to that “partridge in a pear tree.”

Go with Madison Avenue if you want to. Trot out Christmas decorations for sale sometime around the end of August, run up to a fever pitch, jump off the cliff, and jerk to a stop at the end of your rope sometime by about noon on December 25. Then Christmas goes back in the box (or the attic or the garage or . . .). The poor partridge gets shafted.

More to the point, we tend to miss the point by getting the cart before the horse.

If Christmas is just about Santa and Rudolph (I’m on good terms with them both), it doesn’t make much difference when we jingle the bells.

But if Christmas really centers on the coming of the One whose name this good season bears, then the wisdom and practice of the ages can come to bear quite nicely and bring in some real blessing.

Strange how often, having forgotten the past, we rediscover wheels that have been rolling along for centuries. A “wheel” called Advent (from the Latin “adventus,” meaning “a coming,”) a time for preparation and repentance (and historically even, brace yourself, some fasting, though I’ve not tried that part) before the celebration of Christ’s coming has roots as far back as the fifth century and a history many centuries longer than our “box the whole thing up at the end of Christmas Day” practice.

Oh, I know. This very old practice might seem a little nutty and new if you’ve never heard of it. If anyone in the church where I grew up had mentioned such, we’d have been sure they were conspiring to stick our church key in an envelope and mail it to the pope. Ah, well. Now, it seems, lots of Christians from lots of traditions are discovering that a little preparation before the season is not nutty or eccentric at all. It makes very good sense. New it’s not.

All to say, Christmas is a season, not just a day. And here’s the real point: It centers on hope that mankind could not engineer in any season and only God could give. Not a single spark of the light he brought into this dark world at Bethlehem, light that shines most brightly even in darkness, comes from us. It’s his gift, completely undeserved.

Is Christmas a season? Yes. Of hope? Oh, yes!


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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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