Our second son, Keithen, is the manager of the pharmacy at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. He once called and talked with his mother about some bad news concerning one of his former pharmacy classmates.
His friend, who was in the hospital at the time, had a very serious medical condition, and the diagnosis was not good. The young man was twenty-nine years old, and his wife was three months from delivering with their first child. One would tend to think that potential for good life for young people would be immune from tragic potentials for loss in the face of such wonderful prospects for life.
Terry relayed the information to me after she got off the phone with Keithen. I remember that, for whatever reason, the misfortune for this family, whom I did not know at all (and do not know to this day), rather angered my soul. Why did that have to happen to that young man at that point in life, I thought? The thought pestered me to the point that I could not sleep that night. In those early morning hours I got out of bed to give rise to do some heavy-hearted praying and meditation.
I make a confession to you about myself—-I sometimes skirt the edges of becoming a full-blown cynic concerning life. Life is filled with so much evil and misfortune. I have experienced misfortune myself. I have seen it all too often in the lives of those to whom I minister. I hear about it and read about it as it happens to countless others in our country and around the world.
It was at that time we received a Christmas card from a Maryland friend who described the misfortune in her life the previous year. At that time, friends from North Carolina were trying to cope with the death of their sixteen year-old son, nephew, and grandson. A litany of such experiences could be cited ad nauseam.
How can fulfillment in life have any quality to it if it is continually qualified with evil and misfortune? After all, we are all victims of it at some point and in some form during the course of our lives. If we allow ourselves to dwell on it, all could seem quite hopeless in this life.
It was Isaiah who within the prophetic context of the birth of Christ stated tersely, “They shall look unto the earth, and behold, trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, and they shall be driven to darkness.”
Yet, despite it all, the absolute one factor that keeps my mind and emotion from stepping over the cynical precipice at certain times has everything to do with Jesus Christ. He has come to give the world sure hope, and, in giving the world sure hope, He gives me sure hope, which is distinctly forged to the message of Christmas.
That is why Isaiah went on to clarify, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwell in the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” The prophet was pointing to the coming of the One who would give everyone everywhere the light of hope in this life we live.
The critical starting point put into play in this temporal sphere was the powerful and wonderful Incarnation of the divine Son of God. His Virgin birth brought the good news of hope to mankind. His Virgin birth brought the balm of hope to the bruised. His Virgin birth ignited the dynamism of the Cross and Resurrection, verifying the hope and the means by which the devil, death, hell, and the grave were defeated. The eventual eradication of evil and misfortune is not based upon wishful thinking, but upon the sure hope of the work of Christ so sublimely clarified in the Christmas message.
Because of the message of Christmas, I know I can endure the evils and misfortunes of this temporal life by knowing the hope given by Christ. My prayer is that you have the same hope…and that you will celebrate it…and that you will be blessed by it…and that you will experience peace from it…and that you will find the joy of the Lord in it.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.