For some, Christmas is a time to remember the joy, peace and hope that this time of year brings. The joy, peace and hope that exudes out of the manger scene when we study the Christmas story. For some, this is the season to be reminded of hope.
But for some, Christmas is a time void of hope. A time of loneliness, sadness or regret. A time where hope seems to be something of Christmases past, not Christmases present or future.
But hope is one of those precious gifts that God has given us, and one that can easily sit unopened, unwrapped, and unappreciated. Hope can sometimes seem like that sparkly gift just beyond our reach – we really want to open it; we dream about how beautiful it might be; we wonder about the peace found within; we yearn for the soothing comfort – but we just cant get our hands on it, no matter how hard we try.
Is it possible for everyone to reach that gift of hope, regardless of circumstances? Regardless of what has or has not happened this year, or in years past? Regardless of what the future seems to offer?
The Bible answers that question with a resounding yes, and we can unwrap that hope that we once felt in our hearts or that we so long for. Lets start pulling at some ribbons, by taking a quick look at our past, present and future in a new perspective.
First, think about your past. I know, I know, that is not something that can be done in a moments notice, because life is huge, packed full of emotions, events and people, and maybe far too many years that we would like to admit to. But I feel so confident that in your past, God has done some amazing things in your life, in your relationships, and in your heart. Do you ever think about those things? Have you forgotten to remember all those special times in life when God did something huge in your life, granted you unexpected blessings, provided for you in special ways that could have only been orchestrated by Him, or gave you the strength to get through a really difficult situation, of which you could have never survived without knowing that He was there for you?
Todays Christmas, is as hopeful as Christmases past, even if life circumstances or dynamics have changed. The same God that was there for you then, is there for you now. When I am facing a difficult situation, or begin to drown in feelings of hopelessness about that situation, I try to remind myself of what God has already done. Spending some time reminiscing about what God has done in the past, helps me to unwrap a little hope in the present.
Secondly, think about the present. Maybe the present is great right now, maybe it is not. But either way, how easy it is to take life for granted, especially if the present seems hard or hopeless. But if you had to choose between your life, and no life at all, would it be a hard choice?
Do you know people that faced difficult situations in the past, but were still able to count their blessings and maintain joy in their heart? Maybe you were someone like that. That type of perseverance comes from hope, and a love of life. Life is not always a bowl of cherries, but its better than having no cherries at all.
Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Now read that same verse from The Message Bible – “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.”
Wow. How can we not have hope, when God is ready to hold us up the moment we need Him? This verse gives us strength to face the present, and open the present of His hope. He is our refuge in times of trouble, and we can always find hope in the present help that comes from the Lord, if we seek it…. if we choose to unwrap that gift.
Thirdly, think about the future. Maybe it seems dismal. Maybe it seems scary. Maybe it seems confusing. Maybe it seems exciting. But regardless of our human emotions, there is great hope in what the future holds for every child of God.
1 John 3:2 “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
If there were no hope for the future, no promises for something wonderful despite the curves that life throws us, this world, from a surface perspective, would seem like a pretty terrible place.
The world has so much suffering and pain; so much hatred, anger and violence; so morally deficient; and so much brokenness. But this is not the world God made, He made a perfect world, but man messed it up. Thank God, literally, for the gift of hope that He gave, because better days are always ahead. We may not be able to see them, but they are there.
Things will not always be the same. In the middle of a crisis or difficult time, or a lonely Christmas, we feel like they will be, but one day, by the grace of God, that pain will be nothing but a memory. Lost strength will be restored. Peace will resume. Joy will again make its presence in your heart. Time goes on, and faith grows.
The bible tells us that before God is finished, the dead in Christ will be raised and the living believers will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye. This life is not the end.
That wonderful day has not yet come, but it is coming. We can bet our bottom dollar on it, even if it is the last one we have, and that truth is our hope.
Hope is not a new thing, or just for some. It is for all.
It was birthed into the world 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. It has existed ever since, but if we want that hope to invade our lives, we must do the same things that those shepherds did so long ago – seek, find, and bow before the newborn King.
Hope is alive and well, and readily available, but only to those who take the time to pull the gift of hope off the shelf, blow off the dust, and joyifully and excitedly unwrap the gift of life and love that is ours for the taking.
If you cannot find any other reason to celebrate this Christmas, remember those two priceless gifts that we are promised through John 3:16 – For God so loved the world -and that love gives us infinite hope.