The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

You’re shivering. I can see it from here. Come in, come in, both of you. Let’s close the door on the cold world for a while.

There, that’s better. May I take your coats? I’ll pour you some coffee. Have a seat over by the fireside; try the chair in the corner or the rocker. Please, make yourselves at home.

Mug of Coffee at Fireside

Here we are. Nice, hot coffee. Why, you’re quite welcome. You look frost-bitten, too chilly to talk.

A firelit night like this one calls for a story. Shall I tell you one?

All right, I’ll tell you my favorite. Perfect for such a night. Comfortable? Good. (Soon you’ll either be more comfortable, or less.)

Almost from the beginning, our people have lived desperate lives. We have trekked across continents—seeking, always seeking. Seeking the peace we once knew. Seeking freedom from an ancient guilt we carried in our hearts. Seeking distraction from our constant yearning for home.

Hopeless Old Man
We were a broken people. So broken we could not live in harmony with one another.

To fill our broken hearts, we accumulated that which we hoped would satisfy our yearnings. We accumulated power. We accumulated legendary deeds. We accumulated wealth. But beneath all the layers of accumulation, we dared not look too closely at our hearts. For they were still broken.

There were, however, some among us who did dare to look closely. Some who were not afraid of the yearning they felt. From them we heard the mystical rumors: the ancient stories from before our homeless wanderings.

Woman With Lantern in Darkness
These fearless ones spoke of hope. Of a promise made to us on the day of our exile. They said there would come a day when our burden of guilt and shame would be lifted. A day when our home would open its doors to us again. A day when all would be forgiven.

My friend in the corner there, why do you shift in your seat? Too hot by the fire? No? Then I will continue.

Many of our people began to place a feeble hope in that promise. Peace at last, they thought. Peace within and without. Our ages-old yearning satisfied!

Celebrity Faces the Crowd
Others, however, saw that restoration would mean the loss of all they had accumulated. How could they admit they needed forgiveness? Would that not tarnish their reputations, diminish their authority, and shrink their self-sufficiency? No, they resolved. The promise would not, could not, be kept. They narrowed their eyes; they gathered their growing fears into bundles so tight they dripped with hatred.

Thus our people waited for the promise. Hoping and fearing.

My friend in the rocker—you’re leaning forward. What’s that? Oh, you want to know if the promise was kept?

Yes, it was. Did you never hear?

Several years ago now, a word was sent from our homeland. A word of peace and goodwill to our people.

How the hoping ones celebrated! And how the fearful ones fought that word. They brought swords and laws and lies against it. But the word was invincible.

What are you saying, my friend in the corner?

No, the word seized no power. The word fought no armies. The word wore no armor.
The Word wore only flesh. It came and dwelt among us.

The Christ Child
In this Word were met all the hopes and fears of all the years.

Hope, for from this Word arose the welcome: Welcome back into your home, welcome back into peace with the Maker you once rejected. The Maker you’ve yearned for ever since.

And fear, for from this Word tolled the final bell: Reject this welcome, cling to your accumulations, and in the end you will be alone with only your fears that drip hatred. . . far from home, far from the Maker who came to keep His promise of love.

And so it is now that those who have accepted the word of welcome live on, anticipating the keeping of the last promise: Homecoming.

Look at you, my friend in the rocker. Such a bright smile! I do believe you are becoming more comfortable. Perhaps you have become one of the hopeful ones?

And you, my friend in the corner— Where are you going?

Aren’t you afraid of the cold?

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
Come in from the cold, my friend. Find peace with your Maker this Christmas.
The Word became flesh, died and rose again to welcome you home.

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