Jesus, Our Hope

As believers we are challenged to remember the "true meaning of Christmas": the birth of Jesus Christ. This is very important. Christmas without Christ is empty and meaningless. But there is more to Christmas than even this.

I'm 24 this year. Not too old in the eyes of most of you, but because of my mission work I have had the opportunity to see a very hard side of life. Everywhere around the world are hurting people, people living in extremely difficult circumstances, with pain and fear an everyday way of life. Much of America has had the privilege to avoid too much heartache. It surprises many Americans when they learn the shear number of orphans around the world (about 143 million), that almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 a day , that a 13 year old could be forced to hit the streets to bring in an income for her family. What should also be as shocking to Christians is how many people live without Christ. In America there are still many, many people who haven't found hope in Jesus. But there is the chance to find answers all over the place. Bible preaching churches are in most (all?) cities, Bibles tucked into end tables in hotels, information just a click away on the Internet, and there is little to no real persecution for following Christ.

But for most people around the world the gospel unavailable, hard to find, there is no Bible or Christian literature in their language and/or they will face harsh persecution for following Christ. Did you know that of the approximately 16,321 people groups around the world 6,675 of them are still considered unreached? That's a total of 40.9% of the world's population. English is the trade language of Liberia, but most people speak 1 to 3 other tribal languages. Some people don't speak English at all (especially in the villages). Some tribes right here in Liberia do not have a Bible in their language. My brother John-Mark has a burden for these people and will be starting linguistics training in a few weeks to come back to Liberia to bring the Gospel to some of these tribal groups.

As I look around Liberia I see many humanitarian organizations. But comparatively speaking there are way more groups bringing physical aid than those bringing theologically sound spiritual hope. Clean drinking water is good, and everyone deserves that, but without Christ people will simply be given the opportunity to live longer lives of fear and despair, then die and go to Hell. Teaching someone a trade theoretically will build the country up, but without moral groundings in Christ there is nothing to stop the person from selling their new tools for money instead of putting forth the effort to make a living. I am happy to see people caring about Africa. This is the land I love and I feel so strongly for Africa. God had given me a passion for Africa and it is my life goal to bring hope to her people. But when I look around I know that the people in a local community may have clean drinking water, but they are plagued with the fear of evil spirits. The women live like prostitutes to survive; the children are used and abused in the most horrible ways. They have a closed well to get their water from (though that doesn't automatically mean they will now wash their hands after they use the bathroom, won't share cups, etc.) Who is bringing Jesus Christ to these people? Sure, there is a church on every corner. But the leaders are not trained, poorly trained, or teach heresy.

When you truly understand the depravity of humankind, you realize we have no hope but in Jesus Christ. I've had conversations with American Christians who think there is some value to the "good" people in the world. They might not be saved, but "we have a lot to learn from them". An American friend of mine wondered of her religious Muslim friend might actually be on her way to Heaven because of her faithful devotion to Allah (though in reality the person did not practice what is required in Islam to reach paradise). But the Bible is very clear. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6). And " there is none righteous, no not one." (Romans 3:10) The truth is, any good anyone does, saved or unsaved, is all a reflection of God. There has never been a good dead done that was not a picture of the goodness of God. When you live in a society where being nice and good is pretty much the norm (a place founded on Christian principles), you can believe that being good is something that anyone can do, and doesn't have anything to do with God. But when you see more publicly the hopelessness of man, like I have seen here in Liberia, you are reminded that without Christ it is all impossible.

My favorite Christmas song this year is "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Casting Crowns. Some of the lyrics are:

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

You see, Jesus is the reason for the season. But as my friend posted, he is not just the reason for the season, he is the reason we live! The more I learn in life the more I am overwhelmed at how bad the world is. (I am not being dramatic here. I could tell you things that are normal in many places of the world that some of you wouldn't even believe.) In middle-class America it's easy to think that things really aren't that bad. But they are…It would be very easy for me to feel hopeless. Like the song says, "In despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said." But I am reminded this Christmas 2008 that there is hope. Jesus Christ came as a baby to the world to bring peace to a troubled world. Without Christ there is nothing good on earth, there are no answers to life, there is no hope…and this is just the earth part! When we die we will either go to Heaven or Hell. All of us are destined to Hell unless we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Jesus also brings us hope for eternity! I am moved to tears at this realization and am more thankful than words can convey to know these truths, to know personally Jesus Christ, and to have the chance to bring hope to lost souls here in Liberia.

I pray you too understand the true meaning of Christmas. Do you understand that Jesus came to earth as a baby, God made into man, to die as the sacrifice for our sins? That in believing in him we may have life? I hope so.

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus, our hope.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas!


Tanya said...

Amen sister!!!

Missy said...

Right on target Melodie...without Jesus, meeting their physical needs only, matters nothing in the end. I have also loved Casting Crowns version of "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day". It's funny, I've heard that song my entire life and the words never struck a chord with me like they did this year.

Hope you all have a very Merry Liberian Christmas. I can't believe it's been 3 years since Levi spent his first Christmas with your mom and dad. I sure missed him so much that year, but was, and still am, so thankful he was with them.

Merry Christmas,