Does Christmas thrill you?
Children get excited at the coming of the season. Some in anticipation of Santa, other simply because it’s Christmas. I still feel that same wonder. And maybe it’s because I’m single. Maybe it’s because I have the heart of child and, boy, do I hope that last through the rest of my life!
And yet, I have the same distractions every other adult faces each year. Trim the tree, plan a party (or parties), whatdo I get this person or that person, wrap, ship, write my annual Christmas letter.
And that is why I’m thankful for the season of Advent. In going through it at church, I can shift my focus on the things that truly matter this time of year.
The word advent derives from the Latin word for coming – the Lord is coming. The entire focus? The birth of Christ and the anticipation of His return as King. Advent is far more than simply marking history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ so that all of creation might be reconciled to God.
The first week of Advent brings Hope. Or Expectation. This draws attention to the hope we have in Christ and the expectancy of His return.
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Did you catch the parallel between things hoped for and things unseen? Try applying assurance to something your five senses can’t detect. It’s challenging, isn’t it? The benefit of this is that hope, through Christ, is available to us no matter what we see, hear or feel. It’s above our circumstances.
Max Lucado agrees with Paul’s claim that hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5):
Hope is not what you’d expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbably tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending… Hope is not a granted wish of a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. 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.
Isn’t that amazing? How many times has your hope in Christ knocked your socks off?
Love…hopes all things…but now abide faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:7, 13
Have you ever wondered why those three are written in that order? Maybe hope isn’t something we automatically do. Maybe it’s something we receive, like grace. Check out Hebrews 11:6. Could it be true that without hope, God wouldn’t be able to please us? The same verse says that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Is hope that reward?
Think about this. If faith is what we give to God and hope is what He gives to us, then we have the dynamic of a relationship. With that in place, we can love. So love is built on hope, which is built on faith.
For hope to exist, hopelessness would have to exist first. We didn’t have hope prior to Christ. That, among many other reasons, is why God sent His Son. After all, a perfect world wouldn’t have the need for a Savior. Deliverance arrives undeservedly and perhaps, unexpectedly, just as in the unlikely way God came to earth to provide a once-and-for-all substitute for the sins of all men on that first Christmas 2000 years ago. That’s why circumstances in life can look bleak, but that’s where hope lives and thrives.
The good news? We can’t hope enough. That’s why our senses and minds are inadequate to judge God’s design and methods and hope becomes more a function of God’s involvement than our desires. I, myself, could not have created the plan of salvation or the virgin birth. My creative imagination could not have concocted the plan for the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down, for the Red Sea to part and offer up dry land, or create all that we see (or Eden for that matter). Nor do I have any idea what the answers are to my problems or know what I will be blessed with this Christmas.
My prayer is this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).