Last year wasvery difficult for most of us. The COVID-19 pandemic put lots of strain on us. The many lockdowns and restrictions prevented us from seeing our loved ones and coming to church. For most part of the year we could not attend church physically. Some of us lost a loved relative or friend to death. The church as a family lost our dear sister Tuula Siimes. We could see that as a church and as individuals we have seen difficult times. I believe that not everything that happened was bad. God did good to us and also blessed us with the gift of life. As humans we are tempted to always forget about the good things God bestowed on us and focus on the difficult moments that came our way. Looking at what we have gone through and what lies ahead of us, we might ask ourselves is there hope for us?
In the Book of Ruth chapter 1, the Bible talks about Naomi who had left Israel to better her life abroad. She left with her husband and two sons. Unfortunately, the husband and the children died. Naomi returned to Israel this time with only Ruth, her daughter-in-law. Upon entering the city (Bethlehem ), the people who saw her were happy and called her by name but she was not happy with that.
Ruth 1:20-21 NKJV
 But she said to them, ”Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
Naomi preferred being called Mara because God has dealt bitterly with her. To Naomi all hope was lost. There was no future for her. Though all indications pointed to the fact that there was no hope for Naomi- her trust in God has fallen, no child, no husband, no property. At her age what could she do?
The end of the story proved that Naomi got it all wrong. There was hope. Through Ruth, God will bless Naomi with a grandson, Obed. This family line will have a great personality like King David. Above all, when God decided to save the world by coming to live among us, He came through this family line (Matt. 1:1-17).
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, let us keep in mind that the prince of peace is still alive. The birth of Jesus Christ brought hope to the world and that hope is not lost. He is still our hope. In Hebrews 2:14-29 we are told Christ became human so that He could share in our suffering and pain. To break the power of him who holds death and sets us free.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us remember the seed that crushed the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), Jesus our savior is with us. God promised humanity hope and that hope was fulfilled when Christ Jesus was born. The death and resurrection of Jesus completed the hope that God promised us.
The hymnist said with Christ in the boat, we will smile at the storm. No matter what we have been through and the challenges that lie ahead of us, because Christ, our hope is with us, all will be well. We should not be like Naomi and think that all is lost and that there is no hope for us.
I am always encouraged by the hymn that says Have you trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? Let us take it to the Lord in prayer.
Freeman Awuah, pastor
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