The phrase, ‘Finding Hope in Christmas’ (which is seen in many a place) points to the reality that we live in a world where disappointments, frustrations, dejections, are common place. Such feelings of hopelessness can hit us at any time. It becomes even more painful and acute when we experience desperation in the midst of anticipated joy. Earlier this month, in the midst of a year-end vacation, my heart sank when I read a message from a colleague who informed that after months of anticipating an addition in the family, it came to an abrupt end when the baby did not make it (stillborn). He wrote, ‘Please pray for us on this unchartered journey’. One can sense, helplessness and despair.
With the coming of Christmas, celebrated a week before the end of the year, it comes at a time where some see themselves as having to carry over their unfulfilled dreams into another year. It may be parenthood, job-advancement, studies, career-move, relationships, etc. Such situations can drive one to one’s knee (figuratively or literally). Perhaps the Psalmist felt the same way when he wrote, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.’ (Psalm 43:5).
It would be worthy of note that in Psalms 42 and 43, this phrase is actually repeated three times (42:5,6a; 11 and 43:5). Some tell us that the two Psalms were originally written as one Psalm, but later broken into two. One may see here a deep sense of utter hopelessness and despair in the triple emphasize. The Psalmist describes his situation as being downcast, with turmoil raging within him. He asks himself as to why he feels the way he does – ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul?’
This seeming emptiness and total lack of joy can be due to a host of reasons. For the Psalmist, it would in all probability include the taunt of those around him, accusingly asking, ‘Where is your God.’ (42:3). The Psalmist seems to be found in such a state of despair that it gave rise to such taunts.
Adoniram Judson was a missionary, called to serve in Burma (present-day Myanmar). His desire was to bring the gospel to the people in that land. Instead, he endured the ignominy of living through the atrocities of a foul jail there. One time, a fellow-prisoner with a look of sneer and scorn asked him, at a time when he had heavy chains on his ankles and with his feet bound to a bamboo pole, ‘Dr. Judson, what about the prospect of the conversion of the heathen?’  His documented reply were the words, ‘The prospects are just as bright as the promises of God.’
Here was Judson expressing Hope in God, in a situation of utter hopelessness. If one cannot comprehend as to how the Psalmist could say, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?’ and yet follows on immediately saying, ‘Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God,’ just perhaps, the kind of response by Judson in his sorry state points us to the reality that one can indeed find hope in God – despite it all.
In your individual circumstances, may the hope of Christmas, with the promise of ‘Peace and goodwill’ give you impetus and strength to yet again, ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer.’
Elder Richard Lai