O Little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie . . .
. . . the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.
This special hymn will be ringing out in our shops and on our radios over the next few weeks along with our secular festive songs. How many of us will stop to listen to the words and to take note of the inspiration of the authors, especially of this famous Carol by Philip Brooks (1835-93)? Recently, I heard a reflection on this very verse and it made me think of the irony of these two words put together – hope and fear. Often to hope requires a certain amount of anxiety and fear.
If we think of the Christmas Story that is so much part of our early upbringing we learnt only of HOPE but as we grew older we saw the world around us and the hope of the Messiah coming into our world gradually became broken or shattered by so much violence and fear! Daily, we face continued war on our TV screens and as we listen to the world news there is nothing that seems hopeful! Even on our streets we cannot be sure of safety and so we often live in more fear than in hope!
Is 2020 going to be another year of fearful faith in our world or can we really make a decision to be advocates of hope in what we see around us? As we approach Christmas let us cast our eyes around to see so many charities that are out there: Salvation Army: singing carols spreading the GOOD NEWS of Christ among us. Crisis at Christmas: offering meals and shelter to the homeless and housebound. People bending down to talk to the homeless on our streets and offering a few coins and concern. School children engaged in Christmas projects to help those less fortunate and with smiles when they offer their gifts and sing in care homes up and down the country. So many signs of hope are there if we but look!
Our Christ Child was saved from an early death by the hope of migration to Egypt. Mary and Joseph, like so many people today, were looking for hope but often we forget that part of the story and like many, turn away from other people’s plight as they seek hope. For many people fear leads them to hope! Such is the irony of this Christmas Carol.
Therefore, let us give thanks to those charities and people of good will who don’t count the cost to offer a hand to those who need help this Christmas and maybe our “fears of all the years” – all that we hold in fear – will be “met in the Christ Child tonight.”
Wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and new HOPE in 2020!
Flight into Egypt- Angels Unaware Sculpture by Timothy P. Schmalz – Rome ( Photo: RM Harbinson)