Week 2 of Advent: Hope
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Once I had children, it became even more exciting. They would make their list and then hope they would receive the gifts they wanted. We’d decorate our home and count down the days. They participated in the church’s Christmas program. We’d wrap gifts. They have always been very close with their cousins so we had a rule that if you told someone what their gift was we gave the person they told one of the “teller’s” gifts. They learned quickly the concept of not telling people what they were getting. One of the best parts of Christmas for me is watching their anticipation for Christmas morning and then the thrill of opening gifts. There is certainly a thrill in the Christmas season.
Thrill or Holiday Blues?
But Christmas can also be busy, stressful, lonely, depressing, and disappointing. We attempt to juggle the demands of work, crunch pennies in the budget to buy one more gift after the credit card is maxed out, spend hours wrapping gifts that will be unwrapped in minutes, stand in long lines to ship gifts to friends and family, cook Christmas dinner, and maybe even have to drive for hours – or deal with airport to fly to family for the holidays. We get exhausted and then everything seems worse than it is. For some, it’s lonely because a loved one passed away or because they’re in a nursing home and family don’t even bother to come by.
Christmas can be both a thrill of hope – and a case of holiday blues depending on your life circumstances. So how, then, how do we experience the thrill even when we’re exhausted, lonely, distracted, or depressed? And this year we can throw in the mix a pandemic that forces us to social distance and perhaps prohibit us from being with friends and family as we usually do. Where is the thrill of hope that makes the weary world rejoice? The prophet Isaiah tells us about the greatest thrill that brings hope no matter our circumstances:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
A thrill of hope
The very concept of hope is that no matter how difficult life gets, there is a reason to keep looking up. Hope is the light that shatters the darkness when life is hard. Hope is what gives us joy and purpose when we think we’re sinking. It is what gets us out of the boat so we can walk on water. Hope is what gets us to the other side of the Red Sea. Hope is what gives us eternal life through faith in Christ.
If you’re struggling with finding the thrill of hope that makes the weary world rejoice, here are some scriptures to meditate on:
Hebrews 11:1 – Faith and hope
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the assurance and the conviction that what we hope for will come to pass. The deeper our faith, the more our hope is built on the assurance and solid rock of the promises of God. When we are standing on the solid rock of Christ, we can have the blessed assurance of hope.
You don’t have to see it to believe. It isn’t dependent upon how you feel in this moment. It isn’t dependent on how good you are. In fact, our hope in Christ isn’t dependent upon anything we can do.
The reason we can have faith, assurance, and conviction of things we’ve not yet seen is because of Jesus. He did all the work of redemption for us. Jesus left His throne in heaven. He came into our world as a baby. Jesus stood in our place and became the sacrifice and payment for our sin. He died and rose again so that we can have the hope of eternal life and fellowship with God. We can hope, regardless of life’s circumstance or how we feel, because Jesus is our hope.
Romans 5:3-5- A hope that doesn’t disappoint
We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance brings about proven character, and proven character brings about hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5). Can you think of a time when you really hoped something would happen (or maybe you hoped it wouldn’t happen) but the chances were slim – like it would take a miracle for it to turn out the way you want it to? What do you say in those moments? “I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
The higher we get our hope – the harder we fall when it doesn’t (or does) happen. But Paul says in this verse that we have have a hope that does not disappoint. The problem is how we view hope. We see it as a wish that comes true. But God isn’t a genie or a fairy god-father with a magic wand. Max Lucado describes hope this way: “It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.” (God Came Near, page 89). A thrill of hope requires dependence on God and no one else – including ourselves.
Why does hope exist?
But why does hope exist in the first place? Hope is always born out of hopelessness. If our situation wasn’t hopeless, then we would need hope. Our hopeless situation is that without Christ, we are dead and lost in our sin. Without Christ there is no hope for fallen, sinful humanity to ever have a relationship with God. Without Christ we have a surety of an eternity in Hell. But the birth of Christ brought us hope and Christ is the thrill of that hope. Just as the angel lit up the night sky to announce Jesus’ birth and the angelic choir burst through the quietness of the night, so Jesus – the Light of the World – lights up the darkness of our lost souls and bursts through our hopelessness with the joy of abundant life we have in Him as our Savior.
What is the thrill of hope?
What is the thrill of hope? Ask Abraham who received the promise of a son in his old age.
Ask Noah who survived the flood and started the human race over again.
Or ask Moses who parted the Red Sea.
Ask the Children of Israel who walk through the Red Sea on dry ground.
Ask Joshua who watched the walls of Jericho fall and all they had to do was march around it and blow on horns.
You can ask Daniel who spent the night with pre-incarnate Jesus in a den of lions without one single scratch. Ask his three friends, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego who went into the fiery furnace but when the king looked, there were four – not three – men walking around in the flames, unharmed, unburned, and not even their clothing were singed.
Ask Mary who was told by an angel that she would be the mother of the son of God while still a virgin.
Or ask the thief on the cross who Jesus promised would be in paradise with Him.
In every one of these – the thrill of hope is Jesus. He’s the reason we have hope. The reason we can rejoice when we’re weary. From the moment God promised Adam and Eve in the garden a way of redemption, to the angels announcing His birth to the shepherds in a field outside of Bethlehem, the thrill of hope is Jesus.
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