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Why we must keep hope alive as we close the year 2020

COMMENTARY
By David Oginde | December 27th 2020

There is no doubt that, across the globe, 2020 has been perhaps the most difficult year in history. Thus, as we come to the close of this year, every one of us can only hope that 2021 will be better. Yet, considering the impact of the ever-mutating Covid-19 virus, the prospects are quite low.

Projections for economic recovery have been quite modest in many sectors as new lockdowns are imposed by many countries, especially in the developed world. This means it will be a while before the world can fully recover to pre-Covid levels. Yet, amid this grim picture, we must keep hope alive – especially in the context of the just celebrated Christmas season.

One of the most quoted Bible texts in relation to the Christmas story is Isaiah 9:6, which says: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The context of this passage is significant because it came at a time when King Ahaz of Judah had defied God’s counsel to abandon the worship of idols and return to the true God. In consequence, God brought King Ahaz’s kingdom under attack from almost all quarters. God warned that he would use the foreign troops of Assyria to plunge the people of Judah into deep gloom.

Distressed and hungry, they would roam through the land and become enraged. Looking upward, they would curse their king and their God, then in their despair, resort to witchcraft – consulting the dead for the living.

The truth is, whenever a people have abandoned the counsel of God, He has often left them to their own wisdom. The result is deep gloom and distress. Sadly, when this happens, we tend put on a brave face, as long as we feel we are in control of our lives.

But when pain and distress overwhelm us, the lure of the spiritist and the medium is a strong attraction. Many more resort to nerve-numbing drugs and alcohol.

Unfortunately, as human beings, we are utterly helpless in solving our problems. When we have reached our wits end, all we can do is sit in deep gloom, completely frustrated, and vexed in our spirits. Those who cannot bear it, take their lives in suicide, considering it better to die than continue living a dreadful life.

The great thing is that Isaiah prophecy did not end with darkness and gloom – he had a better message! He told them, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past, God humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honour Galilee of the Gentiles… The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned.”

The import was great! In spite of Judah’s rebellion, God promised that He was going to come to their rescue.

And indeed, according to one Christmas record, at the time of Jesus’ birth, there were shepherds sitting out in the darkness of the night. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and a brilliant glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” This marked the fulfilment of the word of Isaiah. A child was indeed given to those who sat in darkness.

There is a sense in which this year has been one such time when the world has been plunged into utter darkness and gloom. In the midst of great celebrations that often mark the Christmas season, there are many who have experienced the rough edge of life in the course of the year and are just ready to give up.

As we come to the close of this year, it may yet be very dark and gloomy. There are some who, like in Isaiah days, are ready to curse God, believing that He has been very unfair!

But I have reason to believe that God in His gracious love has something in store for us. Like He did then, He can become our Immanuel, an ever-present help in time of trouble.

For unto us a King is given. Unto us a Child is born. We must thus not give up hope.

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