We all know the story of the birth of Jesus. This story, the birth of our Savior as Christians, is also the birth of our hope. But, could there be way more to this simple story than we realize? Could this simple story of hope affect the power and outcomes of our own stories? And do our stories then have the potential to affect other people’s stories? Could hope breathe upon hope in a real and tangible way?
“And she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in cloth and laid him down in a feeding trough because there was no space for them in the living quarters…” (Luke 2:7)
I pondered this verse. Very excited about speaking at a women’s Christmas celebration, I wanted to hear what God wanted to show me in these simple words so perhaps I could encourage these precious ladies in this joy-filled season that was upon us. I looked and looked again…and then there it was, the most beautiful revelation of what God had done through the tiny details in scripture. They leapt off the page like a breath of fresh air…
The Gospel, our assured hope, was shining like a beam of light through the pages of my Bible:
- She gave birth to her “first” child. My mind quickly went to Romans 8:29, “For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the “firstborn” among many brothers and sisters.” This is a reminder that we, who confess Jesus, are sons and daughters of the King, we have been birthed into His Kingdom, and we have a family in Jesus because He is God’s first born!
- She wrapped Him in “cloth.” In John 19:40, how can we forget the incredible scene that John found in the empty tomb? “He bent down and looked at the linen “cloths” lying there…” What a glorious reminder that Jesus, as the Son of God is not bound by anything! He has been raised from the dead and He is alive!! And, we are not bound by grave clothes as His children- We are clothed in His righteousness!
- He was laid down in a “feeding trough.” Remember the bold declaration of Jesus in John 6:35? “…I am the “bread of life.” Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” and the awesome promise in John 6:57, “Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so also the one who “feeds” on Me will live because of Me.” This is a life giving reminder that His sacrifice provides our nourishment that sustains us and keeps us in His presence each and every day as we walk in newness of life!
- There was no space for God’s family in the living quarters. In Scripture, this fact continues on for the life of Jesus as He said in Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.“ Jesus did not expect to have a home made by human hands on this earth (Acts 7:48). His Name, Immanuel, is a reminder that God is with us! He came to “dwell” in us! We are individually and corporately the Temple of God!!
Here in the pages of God’s word is such hope! But what I examine about myself and “us” as Christians, especially as we head into Christmas, is does the world see hope in us as the Bride of Christ?
I worked at a non-profit counseling center and I can tell you that our January calendar was always booked solid. Christmas and the holiday season usually didn’t produce the fruit of hope in many Christian’s lives. Instead their holidays had been filled with chaos – like what you might find in toxic relationships, anxiety, depression, addictions, loss, or financial difficulties, just to name a few.
We are all people, and none of us are exempt from life’s various trials as we all experience very similar circumstances at one time or another. So my question is, how do we have victory over life’s circumstances and not lose our hope and let the world see hope in us?
Not long ago, I felt like God put a question on my heart. The question was this, “Do you know why my church, my bride is weak (powerless) and sick (lifeless)?” I had no idea, but here’s the answer that reverberated in my heart, “She has forgotten the power of the Gospel.“
A flash of God’s power jolts through my mind as I remember the story of Paul and how he came to know Jesus. During this conversion story, Jesus tells Paul exactly what to do… “(now) tell the things which you have seen (past), and the things in which I will appear to you (future)…So they can turn from darkness to light…” (from Acts 26:16,18)
The power of the Gospel is displayed when we tell what we have seen. This is simply telling our own stories of hope. It could be our story of salvation or one of our stories of sanctification. These are stories of how God becomes real to us and increases faith in Him. In story telling, we can bring light and strength to others. We can share a hope that will not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)
This all sounds good and easy, but here’s the problem we, as people of flesh, encounter in sharing our stories… our sin nature wants to protect our flesh. Our stories make us vulnerable to what others will think of us. The image of ourselves will decrease. But, the good news is the image of Christ will increase.
When our mind is set on the flesh it produces death. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6) Life and peace happen when we give way to the Spirit. Giving way to the Spirit is a willingness to be obedient, vulnerable, and transparent. When this happens true hope and healing come to ourselves and to those around us. We then can experience what we innately all long for, authentic community.
One thing I have realized after following God for many years is I have a lot of stories where I have seen God’s loving hand rescuing me, guiding me, and comforting me. One of my favorite stories I share with others is how God brought me hope in finding a place to live.
Hope- I needed it. It was a particularly trying time in the life of our family. We had sold our house rather quickly, (which is another incredible story of its own), and had to be ready to be moved out to a temporary residence, then later to a permanent residence with two of our kids off in different states starting new adventures of their own… and all the work that goes before that like cleaning, repairing, sorting, storing, giving away, throwing away, tearing away, and wanting to run away. But for now, my husband had moved on ahead of us to work at a new job in another state, and many more details needed to be done to make this transition happen. After the massive large purge of everything that was deemed unusable or no longer needed, I was faced with finding a place to lay our many heads (Three kids, two dogs, and two cats). And the latter, our beloved cats, quickly became the reason that there was no room in any inn (or rental house) in our little town of Bethlehem. Every call I made or every person I spoke with about renting ended with, “Sorry, but no cats!” We were getting very close to moving day and I started to lose hope. I was speaking on the phone one day about my housing woes with one of my dear friends who was also a faithful prayer partner. I remember pulling up my metaphorical boot straps and telling her, “You know what?! I am a daughter of the King!! And if I were to tell my dad exactly what I wanted, I would say…. [you know] just a small cute cottage- that’s it!” She then said, ok we’ll just pray for that and we’ll call it “Hope Cottage.” So at that moment we started praying and crying out to God for Hope Cottage. As I woke up one morning, I looked at the calendar and we were now at eleven days until the big moving truck was coming to load up what remained. Still, no where to go. The man who was moving his family into our house told me to call a certain real estate agent as she would rent a certain house to his mom, who had a dog. As I called, I thought about the rejection that I was certain to get when I said I had cats, but the agent didn’t say that. Instead she said that the house I was calling about was not available, but she did have another place. It was small and had two bedrooms… “Two bedrooms” I thought, that won’t do, we need three…, but then what do I have instead? So I went to look at the house that day. As I pulled up, a big smile broke out across my face – it was so cute! A little blue cottage and it was right near the beach. I walked in and observed the open living area and the two bedrooms. As I looked up, I noticed that there was a loft that overlooked the family room and entry. Coming up the stairs, I was elated that this could serve as the third bedroom for our son. I walked over to the balcony and peered over the small quaint cottage. And then… there it was… could I even believe what I was seeing? Astonished, I looked at a flag that was hanging up high over the cottage. And what did I see on this sign? None other than a big yellow anchor and below that, on a navy blue banner, was the word “HOPE.” I was standing in Hope Cottage. I have chills even as I type this now. God wanted me to know that He had heard the prayer prayed by me and my dear friend, and saw my need- along with my want, as His daughter, a child of the King. Those were some tough but remarkable days when we lived in that little place. But I would always point above to remind the kids and myself that God is our Hope, and in Him we will never be disappointed.
Our stories of hope are possible because of His simple story of hope. Telling our stories of how we have seen God work will display the power of the Gospel and will bring strength and life back into the church, His Bride. God is busy working in our lives to create wonderful stories of His hope and healing. We cannot imagine what God will do when we share our stories!