Matthew 11:30 – For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)
Last year in mid-February, the family across the street still had their Christmas lights up, and lit. Another half-dozen neighbours down the block did so too. This year again, long into January, lights in many parts of the city are still up. Maybe because of the recent cold snap people don't want to take them down. With plenty of snow on the ground, the lights do look nice; maybe that's the reason they're still up.
I just wonder if, deep down inside, there might be another reason. Perhaps people would like to preserve something of the meaning of Christmas into this new year — something of the hope, joy and peace — to carry us forward through the bleak days of mid-winter, toward spring.
I live in Toronto, Canada. Walking down the street last winter, the newspaper box on the corner screamed out the story of a little girl. Her dismembered body parts were found in a city park; her father and step-mother were put on trial, charged with her murder. It seems like we are living more and more in a world that has no joy, no hope or peace. I don't wonder people leave their lights up, to try and make the seasonal magic last just a bit longer.
To some human eyes, the world is bleak and without hope. To others of us, the world has hope, because we know this Hope, believe in this Hope and pray to this Hope, and the Hope of the universe has responded to us. This is the season to know this Hope and tell the Story of the Hope.
Jesus Christ came at Christmas. The reason He came, to walk upon this earth, was to die on a cross on Good Friday. It's just as simple as that. Life in the 21st century can be tough; life wasn't a lot easier in the first century. Every human condition — hunger, weariness and sorrow — was known by Jesus. He took the heavy yoke of the burdens of humanity on His shoulders, to lift it from our own. The yoke of "no hope" is gone from our shoulders, if only we choose to put on His yoke of love in return.
It's a lot easier on the eyes to watch a cute little baby in a manger rather than a bloody and public execution. But here is our Hope, stretched out on a cross, before our eyes. The One who was sinless paid the price for my sins, for your sins and for the sins of all in every age, past, present and future.
We have hope in the midst of our busy lives, because we can cast our cares on the Lord. Once, at a retreat centre, I spent a morning working on my worry list. There was a large cross on a nearby rocky hill. I walked to the foot of that cross and told the Lord everything I was concerned about. I picked up a rock the size of a brick, and, letting that symbolize my worries, cast it away from me, and let it come to rest at the foot of the cross. I walked away with a peaceful heart.
Prayer: Lord, the world is full of hurting hearts that need your hope. May they come to know your peace and hope in these days between Christmas and Easter. You are the hope of all humankind. Amen.