I recently came across an article that reported that Planet Earth, a popular BBC nature and wildlife documentary, has racked up more millennial viewers—myself included—than reality TV shows like The X Factor.
Narrated by one of Britain’s favourite personalities, David Attenborough, it’s not hard to see why viewers have chosen a show about our planet over aspiring singers. There’s no other programme this winter that had me cheering on, as this one did when baby iguanas in the Galapagos ran for their lives from a den of slithering snakes—the neighbours in my block of flats probably thought I was rooting for my favourite sports team! Little did they know that I was being swept up by the intriguing complexity of the “circle of life”.
But this show offers more than just stunning footage of wild landscapes and exotic creatures. I think its popularity can also be attributed to something more intangible but just as powerful: hope. Hope amid uncertainty, opposition, and danger.
As I think about the past 12 months, I can’t help but feel a bit worried, upset, and confused. This year has been a particularly difficult one for many around our globe. Ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Persecution by ISIS and other extremist groups. A political revolution in the United States. An uncertain future for the UK in the wake of Brexit. Putin arming the borders of Western Europe. Climate change and natural disasters. And these are just a few of this year’s top headlines.
I think what our world needs now, more than ever before, perhaps, is a fresh dose of hope. Hope in something stable, something unfailing, and something promising.
As I read about the birth of Jesus in Luke 2 in the days leading up to Christmas, I can’t help but think about Mary and Joseph. While I am no theologian, I wonder if they worried about the world they were bringing this little baby into—a dictatorship under King Herod, a nation of anxious Jewish people, and a seemingly unfulfilled promise of Israel’s redemption.
Nonetheless, Jesus came and it changed the course of history.
I don’t know where you find yourself this holiday season, but I imagine you may have struggled this past year, as I have. There have been many things I have been tempted to put my hope in—my work, my government, my culture—but all have failed me. Our post-modern humanist society would lie to us and say that our national identity, our occupation, our relationship status, and our stuff are the things that we can trust. All these give us security, safety, comfort, and enjoyment.
But what we don’t realise along the way, until it’s too late, is that these things cannot and never will be a firm foundation for us to place the full weight of our lives on. When we thought that more stuff, money, sex, and status symbols would buy us more security and love, we were left lacking and found wanting—devoid of hope.
I would not pretend to have all of my theology worked out, but this I know: the only thing that you and I can rely upon is Jesus. When everything else has passed away, when you lose your successful job, when your relationships break down, when your country is going in the opposite direction of where you think it should go—when all of the things that you thought were firm foundations have passed away, all that remains is the only person that could ever offer complete peace. His name is Jesus. And He offers hope, peace, and love to a world that is hurting and that is broken.
What are you putting your hope in this Christmas?