We are conditioned for disappointment from a very young age. Life just doesn’t always work out the way we want it. Sometimes it’s because we have a skewed perception of reality, which is particularly true when we are younger, and other times it’s because reasonable expectations are genuinely left unmet. Add to this general feeling of disappointment the reality of broken dreams and broken promises, and we often, subtly and slowly, develop a calloused undercurrent of mistrust.
Let’s be clear. We have grown up in a culture of mistrust where promises are made with crossed fingers, and contracts have an infinitival number of exception clauses. The marriage vow is now a lawyer away from ending, handshakes have been replaced with documents and signatures, promised inheritances and wills are changed, promotions are given to the “other guy,” and the price quoted is rarely the final price charged. Politicians certainly haven’t helped: “No new taxes,” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” “You can keep your health insurance,” and I will not even start with the current administration.
All this mistrust can easily slip into our spiritual lives and Christmas is a great time to reassess and reestablish our trust: not of man, but of God. We are in real danger of allowing the disappointments of life to discolor our understanding of God, instead of allowing God to rightly enlighten our disappointments. We must not transfer the emotions based on our circumstances to God; rather, we must allow a right perception of God to shape how we respond to our circumstances.
The baby in the manger helps with this.
Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of a promise given in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
This sign the Lord gave was to be a sign that God would be faithful to his promise to deliver his people from their enemy. He would deliver them through Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus is the reality that God came to mankind and dwelt among us in order to defeat our ultimate enemies: sin and death.
Every time we see a nativity scene and we see that little baby in a manger, every time we see and sing the name “Immanuel,” we are reminded that while we live in a world of disappointment and broken promises, we have a God who is faithful. He will fulfill his Word. He will do what is right, even at great personal cost.
Let us together renew our hope this holiday season. For, we can trust him.