I enjoy celebrating Christmas, in part, because its message is a message of hope. In the Doyle house, one of our most cherished Christmas traditions is the lighting of the Advent wreath. This past Sunday, November 28th was the first Sunday of Advent, and the candle for this week is “the candle of hope” or “the prophet’s candle.”
The need for hope is universal. We need hope to survive. Regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds, we all have an innate desire for a sense of certainty about the future. Irwin McManus calls it one of the basic “soul cravings” shared by every human being.
But, how do you define hope? Webster says hope is “to desire with the expectation of fulfillment.” Does that explain hope to you? It doesn’t really explain it to me, and I know what hope is. Synonyms such as “anticipation” and “expectation” may help to illustrate various aspects of hope, but a complete definition remains illusive. Adding to the problem, are idioms such as “hope against hope,” and “pinning your hope on…,” that are particularly confusing, especially for non-native English speakers.
Perhaps, the absence of hope gives us the best picture of what hope really is. For example, I’m sure you’ve experienced a situation or condition that seemed unredeemable, irrecoverable or incurable—in other words, hopeless! When everything appears to be lost, we see how important it is to have hope! The absence of hope allows despair to take up residence in our hearts, cloud our minds, confuse our judgment, and contaminate our decisions.
On the other hand, hope has the power to bring a sense of stability and calm to the uncertainties of everyday living. It can also create a sense of purpose and direction in our lives when needed.
Hope can be as simple as confidence in a promise from a trusted friend, or as complicated and illusive as an inexplicable gut feeling that somehow everything will turn out for the best. However, in the final analysis, hope is only as strong as the object or person upon whom it is based. Some people “pin their hopes” on their education, their families, money or their own skills and abilities. Hope based on self, others, circumstances or worldly things can lead to disappointment.
The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of our hope in God. The message of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, is a message of hope. The ancient prophets challenged the people to place their hope in God, to trust Him with their future, and to make decisions based on that hope. Jeremiah declares the Lord God is “the hope of Israel.” (Jer. 14:8) And, Isaiah, speaking about the coming Messiah said, “And His name will be the hope of all the world.
Do you have hope in your heart today? If so, what is this hope based on? Hope and her twin sister, Faith, are gifts to us from God. (Ephesians 2:8). At this special time of year, they are God’s Christmas gifts to us. He is the only One who is totally trustworthy. My faith in Him brings me the hope I need for everyday living. Only in receiving Him, the person of Jesus Christ, can we find a hope that will endure the test of time.
An old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”
I pray you have discovered this hope. If not, perhaps this Christmas you will come to know what it means to put your trust, your faith, and your hope in Him.