Christian Living

The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

Well, what a year! One without a lockdown. A year that had promised to be a return to the joys of normal life… whatever ‘normal’ means. I remember at the end of last year looking forward to this one with hope of it being much easier to see family and friends and to meet with brothers and sisters at church. A year of ‘normal’ joy.

This time last year was a tough time. We had moved out of lockdown, but things were slow to pick up and people were still cautious. After two years of Covid impacting things, I remember thinking maybe 2022 would be different, maybe 2022 would bring greater joy, maybe 2022 would see the world be a better place.

I knew Covid wouldn’t just disappear; my family and I ended up catching Covid for the first time during Easter 2022. But maybe, we thought, just maybe, 2022 would be more joyful than the previous years…

I don’t know about you, but I found 2022 to be just as hard – but in different ways. Of course it was far better to be out of lockdown, but then that brought other challenges for us. We faced sickness after sickness that our kids brought home, sicknesses our bodies hadn’t dealt with for a couple of years. It seemed like all the other diseases were worse than Covid! (for us, at least).

It has been tricky to navigate social expectations with different friends and family, and to manage our anxious response to whenever someone would cough near us. How did we become so nervous about a cough? Should I hug that person? Give them a handshake? Wave? Just say hello from a distance? And calculate the right answer within half a second… and I often seemed to calculate the wrong answer!

With the pain of the last few years, I had hoped 2022 would be noticeably more joyful. But in the end it has seemed like just another year with just as much stress and difficulty, just in different ways to the other few years.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many joyful moments for our family this last year. We gave birth to another daughter! And there were also moments of joy during the lockdown years. But my point is this: the world kept ticking on, in a state of weariness; Covid or not, it’s still a weary world. The lack of lockdown in 2022 wasn’t enough to break out of the weariness of life under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:3­­–6 (ESV)

What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
    and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.

It has been a year without lockdown, but the wind has come around like any other year. What difference has 2022 made?

The Advent season is an opportunity to be reminded that it’s not 2022, or 2021, or 2019, or 2023 that makes a difference in life. It’s the ‘AD’ of 2022 that makes the real difference. That is, this year has been the two-thousand-and-twenty-second year of our Lord: AD 2022.

The point of Ecclesiastes is that life without the Lord goes on with no change. A generation comes, and a generation goes. Where is the joy? What is the point?

But it is Christmas that marks the arrival of our Lord. The birth of the Lord Jesus brought about true hope, as Isaiah spoke of hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)

It is the Lord who brings about meaning and difference, not whether a year has lockdown or not (or whatever we may face). The arrival of the Lord marked a change in the world. It’s not merely weary life under the sun – the Lord has come!

The birth of our Lord Jesus was the moment where the weary world could finally rejoice. His birth is the thrill of hope.

As we look back on the year and look forward to another, let us remember where our hope truly lies. It is not in the efforts or strength of mankind where we hope and long for change, but it is in our crucified and risen Christ who was born in Bethlehem. He is our everlasting hope and joy.

We do not hope in the betterment of tomorrow, because our world is weary: The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises (Ecclesiastes 1:5 ESV).

We hope in our Lord, as the carol says: ‘The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.’

This Christmas, would you remember to place your hope in our Lord rather than our world?