The Hope of Christmas

A Christian missionary was teaching high school students in a rural village in east Africa. As the Christmas season approached, the teacher explained the tradition of Christians exchanging gifts with one another on Christmas as an expression of our gratitude for the love that God had shown humanity in the gift of Jesus Christ. A few weeks later, on Christmas morning, there was a knock on the teacher’s door. Standing there was one of his students, holding a seashell of lustrous beauty. The missionary knew that sea shells of such quality could only be found in a cove along the coast, many miles to the north, that could only be reached on foot. Immediately moved by the student’s generosity, the missionary said, “Thank you so much. It is extraordinary that you would have gone so far just to get me this gift.” His eyes brightening, the student replied, “Sir, the long walk is part of the gift!”

The student understood the full significance of Christmas better than did his teacher. Christmas marks the journey of God’s long walk to humanity in the gift of God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. God takes on human flesh as the baby in the manger, the One who is none other than the person who calms the storms, who heals our brokenness, who dies for our Sin and is raised on the third day. We discover joy, love, and especially hope in God’s long walk that is part of the gift we receive in Christ.

Hope abounds in our life together at Baylor because of the gift of God in Christ that nurtures, sustains, and renews us.

We are nurtured in the hope of Christmas because we know where the journey is headed. The student knew where to find the seashell of lustrous beauty. We know the long walk with God is worth it, because our focus is on Christ and his Kingdom. We can keep our heads raised high because we know where we are going.

We are sustained in the hope of Christmas because God’s grace gives us the strength we need to persevere on that long walk. During those times of struggle and exhaustion and sadness, such as we have been experiencing at Baylor over the past year, we are sustained by the ongoing awareness that the long walk is part of the gift.

We are renewed in the hope of Christmas because we are accompanied by friends and faithful practices that encourage us. In our study, in our worship and prayer, in our life together, we find the sources and resources that renew us and strengthen us for the journey. The long walk is made easier by the gifts of people and practices around us.

During the Christmas season, I hope all of us in the Baylor family will rededicate ourselves to our mission, remembering the hope to which we have been called and bearing witness to the God whose long walk to humanity we celebrate.

In this final Hope Abounds post of 2016, Executive Vice President and Provost, L. Gregory Jones, offers a reflection on the “The Hope of Christmas.”  Our regular posts and emails will resume in January. Have a merry and blessed Christmas!

Hoping against Hope

In Romans 4, Paul cites the patriarch Abraham as a model of faith and hope. He says of Abraham, “Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’” Biblical hope is hope in what God will do in the future. It is not groundless wishful thinking but is based on what God has done in the past and the conviction that God is faithful to fulfill God’s promises in the future.

God promised that the childless Abraham and Sarah would have a son despite the fact that Sarah was well past childbearing age. Sarah laughed at the news, but Abraham trusted God’s promise and said, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Decades passed, however, before God delivered on that promise. Abraham’s and Sarah’s hope wavered. To clothe the situation with modern images, they had already submitted their reservation at the Rose of Sharon Nursing Home when the promised child was born. They named him Isaac, which means “laughter” in Hebrew. It seemed like a joke, particularly if they had to explain an obstetric bill to the folks at Medicare. God could be funny that way in how promises were realized.

The story of Abraham and Sarah provides an example of how God saves and why we place our hope in God. God always starts with lack, because none of us possess the resources on our own to accomplish what God plans for us. Our hope is anchored in divine possibilities not human possibilities. God brings deliverance where there are little prospects for it. And the biblical record is that God brought salvation to a wandering Aramean, Abraham, in his dotage; to a deceiver named Jacob; to a no-name, stiff-necked group of slaves toiling at an Egyptian discount brick factory; and to a manger in Bethlehem.

Mary and Jesus
Robbins Chapel stained glass window

Hoping against hope means accepting God at God’s word because we are helpless and God has proven to be faithful and able to do all things. As God stood before Sarah’s barren and withered womb and brought forth a child (Romans 4:18–21), so God stood before a dark and dank tomb and raised Jesus from the realm of the dead (Romans 4:24). The only hope that we humans have is in this God who sent his Son into a bleak and weary world to bring us the hope of salvation – which is cause for rejoicing.


Provided by David E. Garland, Interim President

MBA Students and PEP

The effort to link MBA students with prisoners began in the fall of 2007 when John Jackson, Baylor BBA ’79, introduced Gary Carini, Associate Dean for Graduate Business Programs, to the Houston-based Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP). PEP helps prisoners develop viable business plans so they have a chance to transition from tax consumers to tax payers as they mobilize their entrepreneurial skills. Founded in 2004, PEP has over 1,300 graduates, 100% of whom are employed within 90 days of their release. More than 200 businesses have been launched, including six that generate over $1 million in gross annual revenue. The recidivism rate for the graduates is less than 7%, compared to nearly 50% nationally.

In the first semester, 5 MBA students worked with as many prisoners on their plans, assisting them with writing different sections, including the vision statement, market determination, financial analysis, competitive analysis, along with a discussion of the leadership team for the proposed business. Word spread within the MBA program, growing the number of MBA volunteers to 25 that next year. As of this fall, with an expansion to business graduate students in the areas of accounting, taxation, economics, and information systems, and the EMBA programs in Austin and Dallas, a total of 350 students have volunteered an estimated 3,000+ hours with prisoners at the Texas facilities in Cleveland and Venus.

In 2013, Baylor saw an opportunity to recognize the PEP participants even further and began granting prisoners a Certificate in Entrepreneurship after they complete their coursework. This certificate is the pride and joy of these men. It represents a significant accomplishment in their lives, and it is a great addition to their résumés that they present to future employers. To date, over 500 certificates have been issued. Baylor graduate students will continue to be an integral part of the hope that has been generated for these men. In doing so, Baylor students have the opportunity to have a significant impact on the lives of these men and their families.


Making Music

Oso Musical is an organization founded in 2012 by Dr. Russ Gavin (associate professor – Baylor School of Music) and Chelsea Middleton (Baylor BME ’06, MME ’14) to serve Waco-area school-age children with special needs. This semester, Oso Musical has already welcomed nine student participants and nearly tripled the number of Baylor music major volunteers. Master Teacher and retired Elementary

BU Music Education major Jenna Hernandez with Oso Musical student
BU Music Education major Jenna Hernandez with Oso Musical student

music educator Elisa Crowder (BME ’81) leads the classes that utilize the Orff-Schulwerk teaching methodology to increase music literacy. Oso plays musical games, sings songs, explores instruments as a group, and, of course, there is lots of dancing! For more information email Program Director Jill Gusukuma (Baylor BME ’10, MME ’12) at