“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13
At Christmas we see the words “joy” and “peace” on cards and gift bags, written in lights in people’s yards, and sung in the holiday hymns we all know and love. But at this time of year, and particularly this year, what captures my heart most about the season is hope. Hope is so beautiful and powerful when anchored well. It gives courage to wavering souls, lights the way in the midst of dark paths, and lends strength to us when we are set on an arduous journey.
This holiday season has been a different one for our family as we are still rebuilding from Harvey flooding our home. We have been learning to do everything differently from laundry to spending money. And then, set on top of that, as I’ve labored in educating our youngest child, it has become evident that the challenges we’ve faced have nothing to do with the curriculum I’ve chosen or the inadequacies of my teaching abilities, or his strong will. He has ADHD and likely, dyslexia. There, too, I am learning to do things differently. The energy expended – mentally, emotionally, and physically – has required me to reroute my life and live differently. I find myself in great need of hope.
So, as Christmas approaches and my family prepares to celebrate Christ coming as our Savior, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to put my hope in Christ and how that looks on the ground in my everyday life. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way and the gifts Christ has given when we cling to hope.
The Gift of Strength: I’ll Never Be Enough
Whether it is a flooded house, a child with special needs, difficult family relationships, or any number of other situations, we recognize our inability to control the situation and our weakness in it. And that is a really wonderful place to be. From there we can humble ourselves before God and allow Him to be strong in us and for us.
He understands weakness: He came as a baby. He understands temptation: He overcame it. He understands grief and sorrow: He endured it. He understands death: He conquered it. Dwelling on the truths of who Christ is, why He came, and what He desires to accomplish in our lives, gives me hope. This life, today, has purpose, and I don’t have to be strong enough to weather the storms that come with it because “my life is hidden with Christ in God” who is strong. What a relief! That, my friends, is where we find rest.
The Gift of Joy: Savoring Christ
Nothing crushes joy like losing hope. However, just a tiny bit of hope is like a flickering light in the darkness. It illuminates our perspective and allows us to see beyond the challenges of the moment to the joy we have in Christ.
God promised His people He would come and send a triumphant Savior, and His people waited and hoped. The Old Testament is a story of deferred hope, but the New Testament continues the story and brings a promise fulfilled – Christ is born! Today, for us, that joy is that we have Christ with us as we walk in this life and as we wait in hope for His return. He is with us. My flooded home. My child with special needs. My dreams for the future. All of this, infused with the love of Christ and a promise that He is at work, brings me joy. And so I can wait with hope. And you can too.
As we wait, we can savor Christ and the simple moments of joy. My moments have looked like this: my amazing new laundry door being installed, a sweet moment snuggling one of my children, working together as a family to rebuild, a simpler Christmas, a few minutes to read my Bible…alone, a word of encouragement from a friend. What are your moments of joy?
The Gift of Love: Hope Anchored
Ultimately, the story of Christmas is a tale of God’s incomprehensible, unshakable, life-giving love for His people. There is no faith, hope, joy, or peace without God. Our stories would all end in despair without God’s plan of Redemption and His power to complete it. Jesus Christ in a manger tells us that we have hope because God’s love pierces eternity to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.
We live in a broken world where homes flood, relationships get broken, death is inevitable, the unexpected rocks us on our heels, and we struggle. Over all of that, though, the knowledge of God’s great love for us and His plan to redeem us reach out past eternity to remind us that Christmas is more than a season, it’s a promise and an anchor for our hope: Christ.