Max Lucado: Was the first Christmas different from what Mary had planned? Where is your hope for the holiday?

We banter the word “hope” about carelessly. We hope the Red Sox will win the world series. We hope the store will stay open late. But the hope of Christmas is a greater hope. The message of Christmas is simply this: a good God is up to good things in our world.

It often feels impossible to remember in the chaos of our world.

Christ came! In spite of sin and scandal, Christ came. In spite of racism and sexism, Christ came. Though the people forgot God, Christ came. In spite of hopelessness, Christ came. In spite of, and out of, the pandemonium, Christ came.

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The surprise pregnancy, the sudden census, the long road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Unpleasant and difficult, yet they resulted in the world’s greatest miracle. “And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (Luke 2:7 NKJV).

Everything prior to this happened so this moment would happen. Was the first Christmas different from what Mary had planned? Yes, but it turned out greater than she could have dreamed. God used the struggles to accomplish his will.

Don’t you need that reminder? In your world of short nights, hard work, and high stress, don’t you need to know that Jesus holds it all together?

I created a four-step reminder to find in HOPE even in the midst of the chaos during the holidays:

Help- reach out to someone who needs an act of kindness.

Open your heart to miracles

Pray- make this the year that you take time to talk to God

Enjoy- enjoy what you have. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have. Fix your mind on the good around you and enjoy it.

You might relate to the jalopy I once saw. The car clattered down the freeway, one door missing, hood dented, needing paint. On the loosely hanging bumper was this sticker: “Honk if anything falls off.”

“For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment” (Col. 1:16–17 MSG).

God holds it all together. And He will hold it together for you.  Everything inside you and every voice around you says, “Get out. Get angry. Get drunk. Get high.” But don’t listen to the voices. You cannot face a crisis if you don’t face God first.

God holds it all together. And He will hold it together for you.

Everything inside you and every voice around you says, “Get out. Get angry. Get drunk. Get high.” But don’t listen to the voices. You cannot face a crisis if you don’t face God first.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6–7 TLB).

Cling to him. In the E.R., when your dreams are falling apart, say to him, “Lord, I need you now.” Between the headstones of the cemetery, whisper, “Dear Jesus, lift me up.” During the deposition, when others are grumbling beneath their breath, may you be overheard repeating this prayer: “God, you are good. I . . . need . . . help. Encourage me, please.”

In the prayer journal of King David, we read this question: “When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?” (Ps. 11:3).

Isn’t David’s question ours? When all that is good falls apart, what can good people do?

Cling to him. In the E.R., when your dreams are falling apart, say to him, “Lord, I need you now.” Between the headstones of the cemetery, whisper, “Dear Jesus, lift me up.” During the deposition, when others are grumbling beneath their breath, may you be overheard repeating this prayer: “God, you are good. I . . . need . . . help. Encourage me, please.”

When terrorists attack, when diseases rage, when families collapse, when churches divide...when all that is good falls apart, what can good people do? What is the godly response to the unexpected mishaps and calamities of life?

Curiously, David doesn’t answer his question with an answer. He answers it with a declaration. “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his throne in heaven” (Ps. 11: 4).

His point is unmistakable: When everything shakes, God remains unshaken. He is in his holy temple. His plan will not be derailed. God is unaffected by our storms. He is undeterred by our problems.

God has made a business out of turning tragedy into triumph. He did with Joseph, with Moses, with Daniel, and, most of all, he did with Jesus on the cross. The innocent one was slaughtered. Heaven’s gift was murdered. Mothers wept, evil danced, and the apostles had to wonder, “When all that is good falls apart, what do good people do?”

God answered their question with a declaration, with the rumble of the earth and the rolling of the rock. He reminded them, “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his throne in heaven.”

Is your Christmas a difficult one? Then take heart. God is still in his temple, still on his throne, still in control. And he still makes princes out of prisoners, counselors out of captives, Sundays out of Fridays, and brings beauty out of Bethlehems.

He did then, for them. He does it still, for you and me.