One of my favorite Christmas cartoons is Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It has been a family tradition since I was a little girl to watch it during the Advent Season. As an adult, I love how innocent and faithful Charlie Brown is when he chooses this raggedy half dead stick of a tree as their Christmas tree. He truly believed that if he loved it enough it would turn into something beautiful and even when he loses all hope his friends eventually come in and bring that Christmas tree home and love it into being by caring for that tree.
Sometimes life gets frustrating and we want to be like Charlie Brown and just give up hope. We read the news and there are natural disasters all over the place, there’s fighting: name calling, abuse, and death. You may look around and wonder in this season where is God? Where is the promise of peace, comfort, and joy we see in our scriptures? You may wonder, is there still hope left? This is the time to look beyond all of this. This is the time to look beyond the raggedy exterior of the world and see the hope and potential just like they do in Charlie Brown. To see the hope in the hearts of so many people who refuse to let the state of the world stand in the way of feeling the hope of Christ in their hearts.
I love this passage from Isaiah because here the people of Israel had long ago been taken over by Babylon and Isaiah was reminding them that though they had suffered, God had not forgotten them and God was still working to bring his children home. God was coming to this world to bring comfort. And that is exactly what he did with the coming of Jesus. Jesus came into a world where people were hunting him, a baby. He came to a world that could not find room for him to born. He came to a world where people were ostracized from their communities and their places of worship. He came to a world much like ours, a world that was in need of a compassionate heart, someone to care for the people of God. He came to a violent world that was constantly at war.
We have hope because we are reminded in the words of Isaiah that God has not left us. God is right here with us. He is here reaching into the world to inspire hope into the hearts all who yearn, all who search, all who desire to create a better place. God is still in this world working to offset the violence of humanity. You can see it in the works of compassion that we all do. When we reach out to those who are in need, we are reminding the world that God is still present. God has not abandoned us to the hatred and fear all around.
This has been the lesson that has reached out and touched the hearts of people even in the midst of some of the worst evil to have ever walked this earth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my favorite theologians, held tightly to this hope as he continued God’s work in the face of personal threats from Nazi controlled Germany. He was just a pastor of a church in Germany who could not make sense of the hate, the fear, and the violence running rampant through Europe. He preached against it. He preached instead: love, compassion, and care. He preached hope in Christ, hope in God, risking everything he had for it. He became a political prisoner in his own country. He was tried as a traitor and executed. Yet in the midst of all that violence and hate he still managed to write this, “Wonderfully secured by a mighty power, God is with us – in the evening, in the morning, and entirely certain on each day”.
If he could pen these words even from a prison cell with no hope of release, then we too can find hope that God is with us amidst our trials, our loses, our sorrows, and God is looking to bring us all together in a moment of love and peace. It is up to us to never give up our faith. It is up to us to never lose sight of the hope we have in the expectant Christ. When we reach out someone who is hungry and we feed them; when we reach out to someone who needs employment or education and we help them; when reach out to the cold and clothe them, then we are doing the work of Christ. We are living and spreading that hope to the very people Christ came to this world help. This is how God reminds us that he is here. Do you here the cry in the wilderness from our scriptures this morning? It’s there, reminding us that God has not left; God is still here. We only need to recognize him in one another and to live out his message with each new day.
So go into this coming week remembering the words of our scriptures, “See, the Lord God comes … He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep”. God comes this Christmas season to offer hope to the hopeless, love to the lonely, and peace to the conflicted. So look for God, do his work, and feel his joy. Hold the love of Christmas in your hearts and let it guide your actions the whole year long. With a little bit of love, we can affect change in the life of another.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 2oth century theologian.
 Isaiah 40: 10-11, NRSV.
(Based on Isaiah 40: 1-11 and Mark 1: 1-8)