The Hope of Christmas

Hope is a word used carelessly.  The phrase “I hope you have a good day,” escapes my lips daily.  At the time the sentiment is sincere but quickly fades from my memory as my own life steps into the spotlight.

Webster defines hope as, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a person or thing that may help or save someone.”  For example, “Their only hope is surgery.” It goes on to say that hope is “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” Another example is, “He does see some hope for the future.”

The following quote is from the Encyclopedia of the Bible; “Hope has been defined as ‘desire accompanied by expectation.’ Hope, however, is not always expectant.  One may have hope with little or no expectation.” To hope with little or no expectation at all seems to be more of a cultural definition rather than a Biblical one. 

Hope is an emotional word, yet it no longer carries the same weight. Why? Our heartbreaks and our past disappointments have tainted the word hope and therefore weakened its intent.  We have all hoped for things that did not happen.  These hurtful experiences have turned us away from any kind of expectation and suddenly our experiences become our filters.  Now, we no longer hope for anything because it hasn’t worked in the past.  For example, think about your coffee pot.  Each morning you put a filter into the top before adding the coffee grounds.  The purpose of the filter is to keep the grounds out of the coffee.  However, when the filter falls over, all the grounds pass through into the pot.  You expected a delicious cup of coffee, instead the filter failed to do its job of keeping the grounds out of your cup.  If our experiences act as our filter and that expected cup of coffee is our hope, then no matter how many times we pour water into that filter which has fallen over, the result will always be the same, a defiled cup of coffee or depleted hope. 

This holiday season reminds me of the true definition of hope.  His name is Jesus and He is the hope of Christmas seen in the babe, the blood, and the cross.

The Christmas story is familiar but what I often forget is the reassurance given to us long before the actual birth.  My favorite scripture, Jeremiah 29:11 promises, “ ‘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.’” (NIV)  Even when we don’t feel hopeful, there is always a plan, and it is for our good.    

The coming of hope was foretold by Isaiah as he declares in chapter 9, verse 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. . .”   The proof of this prophecy comes when the King is born heralded by the heavenly host to the shepherds and to the Magi several years later.  These shepherds were ordinary men going about their ordinary day when suddenly, there is an interruption.  God uses the ordinary to display the extraordinary and He humbles the extraordinary so the ordinary may be revealed.  The Magi were men of privilege and highly revered, yet they too were humbled and led by a star to an ordinary child. 

His blood promises us redemption as seen in Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood. . .”  We are reconciled to himself as seen in Colossians 1:19-23a, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel…” The proof comes with the shedding of that blood and in the working of it to cleanse and to purify.  The blood, an ordinary substance, common to all man, achieves extraordinary results when shed for sinners. 

We cannot have Christmas without the cross and the promise of hope it brings through eternal life.  Hebrews 9:12 says, “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”  Death is an ordinary event destined for all, yet because of His death we can have an extraordinary eternal life.

The babe, the blood, and the cross all work together to reveal the hope of Christmas.  It is not dead, nor does it slumber.  The first chapter of I Peter, verse 3 tells the good news, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in his great mercy h has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all.”  -Emily Dickinson

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