I remember thinking that I would have done the same thing.
At the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I picked up a tiny booklet with a name and a story inside.
My booklet told the story of a survivor.
My friend’s, however, did not. Hers was a mom with a young daughter. When the death train stopped outside the concentration camp, guards tried to push the crowd into two separate lines: Those who could work and those who could not.
The women could work.
But the kids were considered a burden without benefit, so they were immediately sent to the gas chambers.
This woman, though, refused to be separated from her daughter. She must have clung insistently, desperately, stubbornly to that little hand. I imagine her words, “Don’t be afraid. Mommy’s with you,” even as they walked into death together.
I hope I would have done the same thing. I’d want to be there with my kids for every frightening, fearful, terrifying thing they might face.
I’ve watched in the school parking lot on those scary days when a school shooting hits the news. Moms pull the minivans right over, climb out and take a moment to squeeze their children.
We all fear. I do it, too. After the news headlines, I want so much to retreat with my kids to a secluded cabin in the woods, my pitiful attempt to protect them from the madness of sin in this world.
Yet, that’s the truth of it all: we live on a sin-scarred planet and while there are hints of beauty here, and there is mercy and grace, there is also pain and sorrow.
So, what hope do we have?
How can we wake day after day, not in defeat, resignation or anxiety, but with the joy of the Lord and the peace of salvation?
The gospel message is all about hope for the hopeless, light in the darkness, joy in sorrow and peace in turmoil.
It’s for those hopeless enough to feel like one more day alive is too much to bear.
It’s for those of us watching the clock at night, too worried about bills and our kids, our marriages, conflicts with family, or problems at work to sleep in peace.
It’s even for a worrier like me, anxious over the little things like birthday parties and church program.
It’s for the daily troubles that we turn into crises and for the life-and-death struggles we sometimes face.
It’s the reminder that God came here to be with us so we wouldn’t be alone, and He will not leave our side.
That’s the hope we have. Not us alone in a crazy, mixed-up, broken world. Not us alone facing bills and divorce, depression or stress.
Not us alone against any road-bumps ahead in the new year.
Emmanuel. God with us.
As it says in Isaiah:
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
That’s the loudest message from the Christmas story. The one grand announcement over and over: “Do not be afraid.”
That wasn’t just God’s plan for our past. It’s been His passion from the beginning of Creation—to be with us. It was His driving desire all those years of patiently planning for our salvation through Christ’s coming, His death, His resurrection.
It’s the great passion of God’s heart even now. In the book of Revelation, we’re told that when the battle is over and Christ establishes His forever kingdom, God will say:
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
We close another Christmas season. We stop playing the carols. We pack up the decorations.
We make resolutions and plans for the new year.
But this is what we carry with us; this is the hope we have every single day:
He chose to be with us so we could choose to be with Him.
So we do not need to be afraid of facing anything in this life alone.
God is with us.