Why the Greatest Gift of Christmas Is Not Hope

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It may have occurred to you before, but sharing hope truly is the heart of this writing business (and, yes, whatever else it is, it’s also our business).

family funSo why do we busy ourselves with so many things? We strive to write compelling words, remarkable words, and to make them intelligent and share-worthy, and then get them read and shared when all we need to do is share the hope people really want.

Because when they find it, we can trust they’ll automatically want to share it.

I know this because I feel it too.

I want to hope again. And if I could stop trying so hard at other things and remember that all I have to do is seek what matters, then maybe I’d remember how to bring hope and people would respond in kind and share with others.

This is my perpetual trouble. I give up hoping for that peace I’m always losing and forgetting to recover. I forget we have to continually renew our vows.

DSC_0050Don’t I believe the inevitable result of seeking hope is having helpful words to share–and that ultimately, we will help people help others because seeking hope always inevitably leads to finding?

What I too often forget is that ultimately, I’m not just looking for words to gain attention, I’m looking for hope. Words are like packaging. They’re pretty or flashy or sad or boring. And while everyone appreciates good packaging, ultimately it’s the hope inside them that matters.

When words are hopeful, it’s not because they shine and sparkle like the lights at Christmas. It’s because they’re based on our one hope: unconditional love. The one light that outshines any darkness.

Writers who feel the truth of that love, their words reflect it. It’s just that all too often we don’t feel it. And we don’t want to admit that we don’t. So we fake it. We ignore our doubts and try to stay comfortable in the old, old story.

We pretend all is well. As if God actually prefers that.

But for God’s sake, we’ve got to stop faking it.

DSC_0080Sometimes this Christmas story feels like baloney. A virgin birth? The long-awaited Son of God? Obviously, this was before the Internet and iPhones and basic biology class. Come on. It’s a nice story, and surely everyone can see we need a savior. But substitutionary atonement?

Maybe it’s all myth and ritual and doesn’t mean anything. The whole package could be just a big safety blanket against the terror that what awaits us is pointless, forever dead.

But what’s so scary about that? Dead is dead. What’s the big deal?

Fearing death only strengthens doubt. And even the most idealistic child has doubts. Who can’t see clear holes in the Christmas story?

Because that’s what it is. A story. 

To believe or not to believe. That’s the question.

Here’s the thing: What if the greatest gift of Christmas is not hope but the freedom to choose?

Maybe all the myths and tales demand something of us. We can only believe or not. We must make a choice. We must determine what the story will mean for us and our lives–everything or nothing.

DSC_0152Will we choose hope and find the truth in the ancient story? Or will we call it meaningless?

There’s no middle ground. The words mean life. Or they don’t.

For unto us a child is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Just words. We ascribe their meaning. We determine the hope they carry. Believe, or don’t.

We each have to ask whether we want to have hope or not. And maybe whether we want to share hope or not. Whether we want to believe and help others find life and joy and peace and unfathomable love, or to find no basis for it, no meaning, no gift inside all the packaging.

As the lights of Christmas shine and sparkle, they remind me of our choice. We’re also the lifeline of others’ choice. Will we believe and let our words flow from our hearts’ decision? Or will we reject the old story? All it takes is wanting the truth, whatever else it means, whatever else we may want in life. All it takes is choosing to seek it and making the sacrifice, living to answer the questions that come up and waiting, for the sake of these irreplaceable lives wrapped in such amazing packages.

DSC_0139I guess it comes down to humility and the obvious truth that this choice is also a gift given to us in freedom, that we might choose it and be truly free. Regardless of the struggles, the setbacks, our suffering and losses, the fears of death, we get to choose whether to humbly receive or proudly reject the love that came quietly, softly, humbly.

He’s always come humbly so we might do the same. And we can offer the same hope, if we’ll only first receive it.

The only other response is a proud demand. And do we really want that to be our legacy?

The story doesn’t have to make sense. He knows our heart’s cry. It doesn’t have to be provable. We can still have hope and do something great with our gifts. This story doesn’t even have to be explainable. We simply have to see that we’re given the choice, the freedom, to believe and decide what it will mean for our life.

DSC_0043Will we carry hope by humbly receiving it, believing it means love? This story can be our confidence. Will we confidently give what everyone really wants? This story can be our generosity, the reason we give our full selves. Will we generously give our words to inspire others to bring their gifts to his feet?

May you choose his love, his joy, his pride, and his whole-hearted choice of you to know that your freedom meant everything to him long before this crazy story was even inspired.

And may you choose it again with all your heart….

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5 thoughts on “Why the Greatest Gift of Christmas Is Not Hope”

  1. “All it takes is wanting the truth…choosing to seek it, and making the sacrifice…for the sake of these irreplaceable lives wrapped in such amazing packages.”
    “We are the lifeline of other’s choice.”
    Stark. True. Monumental challenge.

    1. Kathleen, I’m praying you seek the nature of your doubts to find the hope fresh again this year! Merry Christmas, my friend. – M

    1. Ginni, I’m honored. Thank you for continuing to believe in freedom–I’m praying your discussion is full of the patient waiting of advent and that you give your kids freedom to be where they are.

  2. i like that bit about renewing our vows…yup. and i see in this post that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. your dad is a pastor, correct? i’ve never experienced “this mick” quite this way before. good job, you were clearly inspired and motivated to write these words.

    oodles of christmas love to you and yours dear mick
    suzee B

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