Out of bed. Open the door. Through the hallway. Around the corner. Past the couch.  Into the living room.

This was the path I took to the living room every Christmas morning (usually tripping over my own feet at least once along the way) to find presents in my stocking and a half eaten cookie at the fireplace.

Every Christmas Eve, my younger sister and I would leave out a cookie or two for Santa and a few carrots for the reindeer. Unfortunately, my seven-year-old investigative skills had failed to reveal that (spoiler alert) my dad was actually the one perpetuating the Santa story in the Struyk household, leaving me with at least a sliver of a hopeful “what if” left every December 26.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that childlike sliver of hope is perhaps one of the most powerful forces on earth. Though that creativity and hopefulness often prompts a dismissive laugh from the stuffy grown-ups we are all trying to avoid becoming, it’s not a light-hearted, breezy “what if” that prompts the hopefulness of a child. It’s deeper than optimism.

This is a deep-rooted “what if” that prompts the imagination of better life. It sparks the world’s greatest inventions. Even in adulthood—especially in adulthood—it chooses to hear the words “you can’t” but succeeds anyway. It opens the door to story that is bigger than the broken world we currently know.

It’s hard to have an entrenched hopefulness in today’s world. We’re reminded of its brokenness every day when we skim the news. Character attacks dominate our politics, gun violence threatens innocent communities, and fear drives our decision-making in the public square. People around the world flee terror in their hometowns with nowhere to go and war rips apart communities of people just like us. And death itself hits close to home, taking away some of the kindest, most caring people in our lives just days before Christmas.

Today we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. And despite the fairy-tale-esque telling of the story some might remember, the world at that time gives plenty of reason for Mary and Joseph to be a little cynical too. But, into that broken world came a hopeful sliver of “what if.” This baby has promised to welcome us into a story that is bigger and better than what this broken world has to offer.

This childlike, seven-year-old-style “what if” that we Christians share on this paradigm-shifting day is bigger than a breezy optimism. This is a deep-rooted hope that gives us courage to face overwhelming circumstances of pain and loss. The birth of God—and the longing for his return that we’ve expressed throughout Advent—brings meaning to our lives and expectation to our hearts.

Mild, He lays His glory by. Born that we no more may die.

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