Advent HOPE…Even With Our Imperfect Christmas?
Hello Weekend Readers. This is the first Advent weekend musing and it’s about hope. And isn’t hope exactly what we all need? Sometimes hope is difficult! But the answer to hope is the biblical meaning of true hope: trusting in God’s character and choosing hope despite our circumstances.
With her permission, here’s a funny story from Asheritah Ciuciu—a writer for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She shares how the most un-hopeful Christmas turned into something hopeful!
“Is this how you pictured Christmas morning?” My husband leaned over our kids’ heads and grinned at me, a twinkle in his eyes. Why, no. It was not. From our toddler’s hand-foot-and-mouth disease to my husband’s sudden flu to the stomach virus running through our family to my own first-trimester morning sickness—our home looked more like a hospital ward than a Hallmark movie. We missed the Christmas Eve candlelight service. We missed caroling with our neighbors. We missed Christmas lunch at my mom’s house. We missed unwrapping presents with nieces and nephews. All my favorite Christmas traditions? We missed them all. But in the midst of the disappointments, God opened my eyes to see hope all around: Our toddler coloring ornaments with Jesus’ names on them, listening to the Christmas story from The Jesus Storybook Bible, and watching the Nativity movie for the third time in three days. There were plenty of reminders that Jesus came not to offer us picture-perfect holidays but to offer us His very presence amid our imperfections.
In Psalm 130, the psalmist is sure that if God preserved a record of sin, everyone would be washed out—it’s a scary thought. What do you think the psalmist would do if he did not wait with hope in God for healing and forgiveness? So, how does the arrival of Jesus bring relief, assurance and a new hope? In the Hebrew, the word hope has two meanings: yakhal-which means to wait for: and qavah-which is a cord you pull tight so you feel the tension and the expectation for the hope you seek. Remember, this hope is not focused on circumstances.
In Biblical days, hopeful people in the Bible often recognize there’s no evidence things will get better, but you choose hope anyway! So it’s God’s past faithfulness that motivates hope for the future. You look forward by looking backward, trusting in nothing other than God’s character. Later on, in the New Testament, the earliest followers of Jesus cultivated this similar ‘habit of hope’. They believed that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was God’s surprising response to our slavery to evil and death and that gave them great hope.
We need to embrace the fact that Christian hope is bold–waiting for humanity and the whole universe to be rescued from evil and death. And some would say it’s crazy, and maybe it is. But remember this: biblical hope isn’t optimism based on the odds. It’s a choice to wait for our God to bring about a future that’s as surprising as a crucified man rising from the dead! Christian hope looks back to the Jesus in the manger and the resurrection Jesus so we can look forward, and wait with anticipation.
If you look and listen carefully, this season will remind you just where true hope is to be found. That freshly cut Christmas tree, with its beautiful pine aroma, should remind you that you can’t put your hope in created things. Like everything in creation, the beauty of that tree will fade…and there you go, dragging a dry tree to the curb, leaving a trail of dried-out pine needles behind you. People you celebrate with can’t be your source of hope either because, if you know them well, you know they are weak and needy just like you. Even holiday joy can’t deliver, because we all know that when the season is over, we all return to the realities of the world we live in.
The Christmas story reminds us that hopelessness is the only doorway to true and eternal hope. It’s only when you give up on you that you seek and celebrate what God, in holy love, offers you in the person and work of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s true that hope isn’t a thing; it’s a person, and his name is Immanuel. Celebrate hope this Christmas, for our Immanuel came to live among us! AMEN.