America just recently commemorated the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. I recently watched a documentary and was humbled and moved by countless stories of heroic valor.
During World War 2, the US Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Many soldiers were left behind and became prisoners of the Japanese. Some of these POWs were not acknowledged by their nations, and were left alone to face the brutal tortures of their adversary. Some marched over 70 miles, on a journey known as the Bataan Death March, fully aware that those who were too slow or weak would be bayoneted, or die of dysentery or dehydration. By early 1945, 513 men were still alive, but they were giving up hope. The US Army was on its way back, but the POW's had heard the frightening news that prisoners were being executed as the Japanese retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. Their wavering hope was however met by one of the most magnificent rescues of wartime history, when 120 US Army soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas out battled 8000 Japanese soldiers to rescue the POW's. Alvie Robbins was one of the rescuers. He describes how he found a prisoner muttering in a darkened corner of his barracks, tears coursing down his face. "I thought we'd been forgotten," the prisoner said. "No, you're not forgotten," Robbins said softly. "You're heroes. We've come for you." What a powerful message of hope!
Have you ever felt that God has forgotten you, or your situation? Christmas is a beautiful and true story of hope, that God hasn't abandoned us in the middle of our storms or challenges. Just the opposite...He came to us as Jesus, to rescue us from them. Jesus has been through everything we could ever go through, without falling. He knows how we feel, and can relate to us because while He was man, he was also God. His life was committed to healing, forgiving, renewing, and restoring us. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet he did not sin." (Hebrews 4:15). Even more importantly, He was committed to our salvation, that is, our spending eternity with Him.
There is no emotion more powerful in our lives than hope and nothing more devastating than losing it! Hope allows us to go through the incredible challenges of life because we believe that a better day is awaiting us and that redemption is coming. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:15)
In conclusion, what can we learn from the Christmas story of God coming to earth in human flesh, as Jesus?
Firstly: Even when we don't see it, feel it, or when God seems silent in our lives, God is at work in the world and He's at work on our behalf. "May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." (Romans 15:13)
Secondly: What we put our hope in is critical. Scripture warns us to not put our hope in anything other than God himself, (I Timothy 6:17) because it will ultimately fail us.
Lastly: No matter how bad or challenging things are, there is always hope with God! "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
With God there is always hope because of what Jesus has done for us in his birth, life, death, and resurrection. He is God's Christmas present to us...Merry Christmas!