There is just something about Christmas that seems to capture our hearts and minds. Everyone seems to have a favorite part of the Christmas season. For some people it is the music, for some it is the time with family, the lights, the tree, on and on it goes. As wonderful as all of these things are the one thing that captures more hearts and seems to be the foundation of Christmas is hope. The hope of Christmas stirs all of our hearts and I found myself having this dialogue with God as I worked on a message I was going to share at a Christmas event recently. I realized that often when I say that I hope something happens in my head I sound awfully whiny.. almost pleading for it to happen but with no real faith that it will. So God began to challenge me on what I thought hope meant. I looked up the definition and found that it means “ A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. A feeling of trust”. Not the pleading perspective I had to admit I often saw in my life. I particularly liked the 'feeling of trust' definition. It challenged me to think of hope as something more than a desperate attempt to capture something as fleeting as the wind. I then looked at the Scriptures and saw even further understanding of the strength of hope. Hebrews 6:19 calls hope an anchor and in Titus 1:1-2 Paul describes hope as a promise given by God before the beginning of time.
So I began to see that hope is something that God set in our hearts from before time began. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 it says that God has set eternity in the heart's of men. We were designed to sense this hope. Christmas is a time marked in history to remind us that we have a hope. We have something we can trust in, something beyond ourselves. It reminds us that there is an expectation for something more. Its not just Christians who sense this hope, the entire world is marked with examples of this hope. Christmas is the only time when the celebration of a child's birth literally split time moving us from B.C. to A.D.. How amazing that the entire world began marking history by the hope of this single event.
Again in 1968 the astronauts of the Apollo 8 mission read from the book of Genesis during their Christmas Eve broadcast as they circled the world speaking the Word of God.
The final historical example I found was that during World War I both sides called a cease fire on Christmas. Not only did they stop fighting there were several areas where opposing infantry forces were in trenches separated by a very short distance. This land between was called No Man's Land and was often barren and had little or no cover, it was overrun with barbed wire and was literally a field of death. During the cease fire troops that would normally not enter No Man's Land crossed the field of death and met with the enemy to celebrate and mark Christmas. There are reports that they even played football and exchanged gifts there on the field of battle. How amazing that the hope of Christmas would even bridge massive wars!
Hope is not a wimpy feeling, it is an assurance! Jeremiah 29:11-12 says
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”
I love this because its an anchor, a promise and an assurance. It is also shows us in verse 12 that He will listen to us. I am so blessed to know that my hope is not in vain! That when I come to Him He will listen to me and that He has good or me, a future and a hope. I can rely on it.
I pray that as well all enter the Christmas season we can stay focused on the hope that is offered to us and to know the joy that is set as our inheritance.