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Hopes and Fears of All the Years (first posted on MyBigJesus.com)
by Emilie Wagner
"O Little Town of Bethlehem”…not one of my favorite Christmas carols, but when we sang it at church last week I was caught by this line: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I started thinking about this unbelievable promise that came with Jesus. This everlasting Light, fully human, fully God, came to redeem his people lost in darkness. Lost in their hopes and fears. Lost in themselves.
I understand the theology, but practically speaking I’m full of questions. How can this be? How are all my hopes and fears – the ones I can name, and the ones I haven’t created yet, and the ones I forgot about long ago – how are they all met in Jesus?
So, I sat down to make a list of some of my hopes and fears. Some are big, some are small, but all feel significant in some piece of my heart. I quickly noticed that most of my fears are right on the other side of a hope, and vice versa. Here are a few from this week, in no particular order:
I fear I’ll forget the many details I’m juggling this week.
I hope our kids will stay healthy so we can spend holidays with family.
I fear that my dad, who has cancer, will have dark, painful days ahead.
I fear that I won’t adequately express my love and thanks for so many dear friends during this season. I hope I can focus outside myself even as I have so many things on my mind.
I hope this stuff we keep teaching our kids about faith and love sticks with them. I fear that our mistakes will be stronger in their memory than the grace we try to extend.
I hope I can be an agent of reconciliation as our community continues to wrestle with issues of race. I fear I’m not brave enough. I fear I have nothing meaningful to add to the conversation.
With some of these, just speaking them aloud gave me space to see where Jesus is already at work. For instance, I know Jesus loves our children even more than I do, and that there is incredible grace as we parent. But others loom large in my mind. Can it be true that Jesus is who he says he is even in that?
I am approaching the manger this Christmas with my hopes and fears in hand, with faith that Jesus is indeed the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7). It’s an impossible promise you can count on.
What are your hopes and fears this Christmas? Will you admit them before the manger? Will you join me in awe of Jesus?