The birth of Jesus is not the end of the story. Yes, it is the advent, the arrival that we celebrate at Christmas. But this baby still had to live, he had to grow and learn, he had to start his ministry, he had to gather his disciples, he had to teach, he had to suffer and he had to die.
And there was persecution and challenges right from the start. The second chapter of Matthew details the jealous vendetta of King Herod against this newborn child.
In fear for their child, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee to Egypt. What follows is a horrific massacre of all boys in the town of Bethlehem aged 2 years and under. Jesus was born into a time of exile and persecution. And I am sure his parents wondered if he would even survive to realise the promise they had been given of him.
Hope is scary.
For Joseph and Mary knowing Jesus is the Messiah, believing in that hope and bringing that promise into the light, brings persecution to him. As parents they must have been tempted to protect their boy.
It would have been easier and safer to raise him as a normal Jewish kid. In fact, Matthew 2 tells us that after Herod died, Joseph and Mary still made decisions around fear for their son. Leading them to settle in Nazareth, Galilee, instead of Judea.
The fact of the matter is if you have a promise and you are waiting for it to be revealed it is scary and uncomfortable to remain in hope. Some days it would be easier to just give up.
Why should I believe any longer in the promise of healing? Why should I believe any more in the promise of a child? Why should I believe any more that I can be an author?
For holding on to hope draws you into the harder places, of putting yourself out there. It puts you in the place of going to a new doctor. It puts you in the position of having hormone injections. There is always the potential for more disappointment.
Hope is not an easy option. It requires grit and determination.
No wonder the Bethel song that inspired this series tells us:
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul, he’s in the waiting, hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds.
We need to hold on to hope in our waiting times. It sometimes feels like a clenched fist that can’t be released. Sometimes it feels like you are barely holding on by your fingertips. But we need to hold on to it.
it is hard
It is hard
For every day
I am confronted
with my reality,
and it is hard
you have given me.
Give me strength,
Give me courage
in this time