The Hope of Christmas. We need hope this year. You can tell by how early people began decorating. Houses have been lit since mid-November. Santas and Frosties were inflated – some the day after Halloween. We need hope- real hope.
The problem is, hope doesn’t come from lights or decorations. You can’t find hope in a well-wrapped box. Not even Santa or Frosty can bring the kind of hope we desperately need this year.The good news is hope really doesn't come from a box or a well-strung string of lights. Real hope came in a manger in the form of the great light - Jesus Christ. Click To Tweet
Why Do We Need Hope for Christmas?
Why is hope so important? Life, in general, can be challenging. Real hope is tough to come by if we focus on all the struggles.
- Divorce. Remarriage. Step-kids. Step-siblings.
- Our average American dysfunctional families add complications to the season.
- We have to plan around who can stand to be in the same room together.
- Custody battles bring businesses and rush in trying to include everyone possible.
- It’s a mess!
- The death of loved ones brings the shadow and grief, sorrow, and depression into play.
- No matter when our loved one passed away, the holiday season spotlights their absence and causes our hearts to ache.
- Financial instability affects 78% of the world’s population.
- Life is not done paycheck to paycheck as much as credit card payment to credit card payment.
- Financial struggles suck the joy out of celebrations.
The challenges of life bring a desire for hope – real hope.
On top of the everyday challenges of life, sin leads to hurt which drives us to seek out hope.
Sin brings an element of difficulty in every season. Often it is when others are caught in this cycle of sin that it hurts us the most. We have no control over their choices but we want the relationship back to a healthy place.
There are big, blatant sin issues that cause hurt that destroy families and friendships, and ruin the holiday season for many.
- Drug addiction
- Substance or prescription
Then there are smaller sin issues that still rob us of the joy of the season.
We could probably go on to list many other sin issues that destroy the joy we long to feel at Christmas. The point is, sin hurts. It hurts the one stuck in the cycle of sin and it hurts everyone who loves that one.
The Hard Year
In 2020 we’ve even added a new layer of darkness to our already hard lives.
- Job loss
- The unexpected death of loved ones
- Dreams crushed
Obviously, there have been hard years before, years of war, other diseases that have crippled the world, great depressions, and the like.
Maybe I am more a Millennial than I like to admit, but I’ve never lived through those kinds of things. This has been the hardest year I’ve lived through and it shows no signs of ending.
2020 took our hard life to a level of difficulty I hadn’t expected in many ways but as Christmas draws near it is harder still. I am searching for the real hope of Christmas this year.
What Are Some Examples of Hope?
We spend a lifetime asking questions about hope:
- What is the real meaning of hope?
- And what is a better word than hope?
- What are some examples of hope?
Where does hope come from? I think to start answering these questions we have to take a walk down memory lane.
The Hope of Childhood
Can you remember back to your childhood? Think of what made Christmas special to you then?
For me, Christmas was special because it meant time one on one baking with my mom. I rarely got her all to myself but at Christmastime I did. We would play Christmas CDs and sing and bake. Well, really we would melt chocolate and dip things in it. That’s still baking, right?
I remember we both loved the Manhattan Steamrollers. It was an instrumental Christmas CD but we knew all the words and loved to sing along. Our favorite was The Carol of the Bells.
To this day, when that song plays, no matter how hard life is, I feel a moment of hope and joy in the nostalgia.
Why is Christmas so Hopeful to Children?
Part of why Christmas is so magical for children is ignorance.
- We didn’t know about dad’s secret drug problem.
- Kids don’t understand that Gran was gossiping about Aunt Laurie.
- We didn’t know that mom borrowed January’s rent money to pay for the new bike we had been begging for all year.
Ignorance was bliss. We could just eat sweets, watch movies, play games and enjoy the cousins we only saw once a year.
Christmas was hopeful because of the gifts and was joyful because of the family.
Adults Lose the Magic of Christmas Because We Can’t Afford Ignorance
If you are trying to re-create the feelings of hope and joy from your childhood but falling short this may be why. We can’t afford ignorance as adults. Knowledge often ruins the fake magic we once felt.
Have you ever tried to manufacture the real hope and joy of Christmas as an adult?
I still do a little. I play The Carol of The Bells on repeat while decorating the Christmas tree with the kids. We watch old Christmas movies and drive around the neighborhood looking at lights.
There might be tingles here or there, but that kind of hope is fleeting. That kind of hope is fake.
What is The Real Meaning of Hope?
When I was young I thought hoping was wishing, but hope is not a wish. It’s more like optimism or an expectation of things to come.
The meaning of hope in the Bible is always about expecting the thing that is hoped for. Examples of hope range from Abraham, expecting God’s promise to be fulfilled, to John, expecting the second coming of Jesus.
The feeling of hope is what we are often after, but I believe the benefits of hope far outweigh that feeling. Hope brings new energy, a new commitment, and it spreads like a wildfire!
Real Hope for Christmas
If that hope is fake, how do we find the real hope for Christmas? Hope and joy that won’t melt away when Christmas ends.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2 NKJV)
We are the people walking in darkness. We live in the land of the shadow of death.
The good news is hope really doesn’t come from a box or a well-strung string of lights. Real hope came in a manger in the form of the great light – Jesus Christ.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9: 6-7 NKJV)
Real Hope for Christians That Lasts
Jesus Christ, the hope of glory. In God’s great love for us, He sent His One and only Son to give us hope. That is amazing because we are searching for hope. Jesus is the hope we are so desperately searching for.
Most of us, hearing that Jesus is our hope, might be tempted to check out thinking this word is about salvation. No, I am here to tell you that I have been saved for more than 30 years and I still search for real hope – often.
This world is dark. This life is hard. Busyness creeps in uninvited and complications add pressure to an already hard life… I lose hope 20 times a day in some season.
Can you relate?
In a time when the season’s holiday bears the name of our hope – Christmas – still, we need reminders to find our real hope in Jesus! I do at any rate.
How To Embrace the Real Hope of Jesus Consistently
To find our answer about how to embrace the real hope of Christmas we will look at the story of Christmas. The birth of Christ can teach us about hope and where to place our expectations.
In Luke 1:26-56, we will see that Mary gives a perfect example of how to have hope in the midst of crazy hard, even hopeless circumstances.
- Mary turned to silence and prayer more than complaining
- She was honest with God about the hard parts
- Mary surrounded herself with Godly friends
- She remembered that God is faithful when she could have been consumed with fear
- Mary praised God rather than dwelling on her problems
Prayer and Silence Bring Real Hope
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” (Luke 1:26-33 NKJ)
Prayer Brings Hope
We know that Mary was favored by God. Those that found favor with God, throughout the Bible, were those who talked to Him and walked closely with Him. Prayer brings hope – real hope – because it keeps us connected to the real source of hope.
Silence Keeps Hope
When faced with a hard situation, a frightening sight Mary responds with silent contemplation. In fact, we see her respond this way nearly every time something happened in her life that was puzzling.
- She didn’t fly off the handle.
- She didn’t run at the mouth.
- No, Mary was silent.
Silence helps us keep hope alive. Why? Because it doesn’t add more problems to an already difficult situation the way frightened words can.
Does anyone else have that problem?
If I open my mouth when I am scared, things go from bad to worse. Mary serves as a beautiful example of grace in the face of trials through silence and prayer.
Be Honest With God About the Hard Parts
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God…
For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:34-37 NKJ)
Something that makes the Bible dear to my heart is that it is so real. Real people with messy problems who face them honestly.
Mary listened in silence but needed to clarify the logistics of the unique burden God was placing on her. She was honest with God about the hard parts. It gives me hope that we can always come to Him honestly when life is messier than we can understand.
The angel didn’t punish her for the question. God didn’t knock down how much he favored her because she had a question. It’s okay to take the hard parts to God and ask for wisdom, discernment, clarification, and even the strength to just keep walking through it.
There is hope in knowing we serve a God who cares about us, and the real, messy things we are facing each day. He is always just a prayer away!
Look to God, Not At The Problems
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38 NKJ)
Can we be really honest about this situation?
From the world’s point of view, the Christmas story is not filled with hope or joy. It’s crazy.
My husband came to faith as an adult and I remember the questions he had about things in the Bible to this day because they struck me so hard. If you grew up in the Church these situations were just accept on faith in Sunday School but take a fresh look today.
“God’s okay with unwed pregnancy?”
“How old was Mary anyway?”
“Why wouldn’t her relatives in Bethlehem let them stay there?”
Mary’s problems were serious!
- She was an unwed teen mother.
- The culture stones women for less.
- If Joseph put her away no one would marry her.
- Women had no status, she would be a beggar raising the Savior.
- The gossip would destroy her reputation.
- Her relatives would disown her.
What if Mary had focused on the problems of this “supposed blessing” from the God who favored her?
If I were in her shoes I would have. In fact, I do it often. Focusing on the problems robs us of our hope!
But when we stop and see God in the midst of the hard situation we have hope. When we give up what we thought life was supposed to look like and embrace the change God wants to bring, we have hope!
Stay Surrounded with Godly Friends
“Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:39 NKJ)
Instead of giving in to the temptation to worry over all the hard parts of the Will of God in Mary’s life, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
Mary surrounded herself with Godly friends which is a sure way to find hope. She found someone she could talk to honestly about the situations she was facing. Not only was this a godly friend, but she was also a godly older woman who, no doubt, poured wisdom and encouragement into Mary’s heart and mind throughout the visit.
When you are faced with crazy situations that feel hopeless, surround yourself with godly friends and mentors. It brings hope!
Remember God is Faithful and Praise Him
“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.
“And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:45-48 NKJ)
Mary remembered God’s faithfulness when she could have been consumed with fear. She didn’t ignore the hard parts, she took them to Him directly and believed Him. That speaks so much about her character.
Mary believed God. She believed in God and trusted Him. This doesn’t just happen in the midst of trying times, no this was a discipline she had to have been developing throughout the boring parts of life.
The foundations of faith grow in the boring parts of life! It is that foundation that helps us have the hope of Christmas!!!!!
When the Sabbath came, she must have meditated on His Word. As she began her days, she must have met with Him in prayer. When small challenges arose, she must have sought His will and seen Him prove Himself to her.
It takes a lifetime of faith, in the boring parts, when it’s inconvenient, when no one is watching, to forge the kind of faith that believes God in chaos.
Practiced faith in God, builds the muscle of hope within us so that when we need it most it is strong.
Praise Feeds Hope
To tie a bow on Mary’s story we see that she praised God, even when it didn’t all make sense. She didn’t fall down and cry at Elizabeth about how unfair it all was or how hard it all would be. No, Mary praised the Lord.
Hope comes when we praise God, especially when we praise Him in the midst of the hard parts.
Deal With Expectations
The truth is, there is an underlying message in the Christmas story that I don’t want us to miss. We are a people prone to set expectations. We expect life to go a certain way and when life falls short, our hope fails.
What did you expect 2020 would look like?
I had hopes and dreams for this past year. Dreams for my business. Hopes for my family. Very little of what I dreamed this year would look like has come true.
This year has taught me that we control nothing and that is okay because we know the one who controls everything.
Throughout the year, there has been a nagging question in my mind. Every single time a goal I set is missed or a hope I had falls short I hear it.
What If You Just Expect God?
What if we put all our hope in God? All of our expectations in Him alone as we near the new year?
Expect God to:
- See and listen
- Give wisdom and direction
What if we live each day with open hands, fully surrendered to God’s will, God’s timing, and God’s pleasure – no matter what that looks like?
Real hope comes when our expectation is in Christ alone.
Will You Choose the Real Hope of Christmas This Year?
This Christmas will look different, but it doesn’t have to be without hope.
There may be fewer gatherings.
Some may be missing from the celebrations.
Traditions you’ve held dear for years may not be possible.
None of those changes have to steal your hope. Will you choose the real hope of Christmas this year?
Which step would best help you lean into the true hope of Christ for Christmas?
- Pray and silence instead of complaining.
- Being honest with God about the hard parts.
- Surrounding yourself with godly friends.
- Remembering the faithfulness of God in the midst of trials.
- Praising God even when you don’t know how things will end.
Hope is always right there with you, just a prayer away. Lean into Jesus and you can experience real hope at Christmas and every day.
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