Christmas Hope in a Time of Despair

Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

Michael Gerson writes:

Many in our country have lost the simple confidence that better days are ahead, for a variety of understandable reasons. There are the coronavirus’s false dawns, followed by new fears. There are rising prices and empty store shelves, as if in Soviet Romania. There is Afghanistan, descending into man-made catastrophe. There are increases in urban violence. And deeply embedded racial injustice. And an environment buckling under terrible strains. Everything seems crying out in chaotic chorus: Things are not getting better.

That spirit possesses our politics. The right sees a country in cultural decline, stripped of its identify and values. The left fears we are moving toward a new American authoritarianism. Both are ideologies of prophesied loss. In a society, such resentments easily become septic. So many otherwise irenic people seem captured by the politics of the clenched fist. A portion seem to genuinely wish some of their neighbors humiliation and harm.

Under such circumstances, it can feel impossible to sustain hope….

No matter how we react to the historicity of each element, however, the Nativity presents the inner reality of God’s arrival.

He is a God who goes to ridiculous lengths to seek us.

He is a God who chose the low way: power in humility; strength perfected in weakness; the last shall be first; blessed are the least of these.

He is a God who was cloaked in blood and bone and destined for human suffering — which he does not try to explain to us, but rather just shares. It is perhaps the hardest to fathom: the astounding vulnerability of God.

And he is a God of hope, who offers a different kind of security than the fulfillment of our deepest wishes. He promises a transformation of the heart in which we release the burden of our desires, and live in expectation of God’s unfolding purposes, until all his mercies stand revealed….

On Christmas, we consider the disorienting, vivid evidence that hope wins. If true, it is a story that can reorient every human story. It means that God is with us, even in suffering. It is the assurance, as from a parent, as from an angel, as from a savior: It is okay. And even at the extreme of death (quoting Julian of Norwich): “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”