I listened to my friend on the other side of the phone say “ I don’t want to get my hopes up”. The following day, I was repeating those same words back to her about a situation in my life. We often use this phrase “ I don’t want to get my hopes up” when we are waiting expectantly for something, yet worry about being too enthusiastic in case it doesn’t deliver and give us the desired outcome. Honestly, there is risk involved with hoping for something. Hope is all about expectations and desires that are most often out of our control. As humans, we choose to put our hopes in many earthly things.We put our hope in a job to provide for our families. We put our hope in leaders to guide us with integrity. We put our hope in a spouse to be faithful. We put our hope in our children to make good choices. We put our hope in friendships to meet our needs. We put our hopes in doctors and medical treatments to heal and cure disease. Yet none of these things are guaranteed and what happens when that hope disappoints us? We are often left weighing if it is better to hope and be disappointed or to have never hoped at all.
When we look to scripture we see a different type of hope, an eternal and steadfast hope. Since the fall in the Garden of Eden to the covenant promise to Abram and on throughout the entire old testament, God instills hope in his people. I He promises a savior, a messiah who will be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
When we reach the Christmas story, we are told that it has been 400 years of silence for Israel. 400 hundred years without a word from the Lord. Yet still we find ordinary people who have been patiently hoping and trusting in God’s promises. Take a look at Mary, a young girl born into a humble Jewish home. When the angel delivers the message that she will carry the Messiah, she takes the message with joy and praises God for the son she has been given who will fulfill the covenant promise that was made to Abraham thousands of years earlier. We find shepherds faithfully doing their work in the middle of the night who are delivered the good news that this baby will be a Savior for all people. They immediately believed and went to the manger to worship.They left this experience changed and with a confident hope in that child. Despite that child being a helpless baby born to a poor young couple at the time, they had hope that God would deliver on his promises just he had told them that night. . Lastly, in Luke 2 we are introduced to Simeon. We don’t know much about Simeon except that he is described as righteous and devout and waiting for the consolation of Israel. He spent his entire life hoping and waiting to meet the Messiah, and God in his grace allowed Simeon’s faith to become sight as he held Jesus in his arms.
Scripture talks about Mary treasuring all these things in her heart. Mary was the only character from the Christmas story that was present at the crucifixion 33 years later. As she stood at the foot of the cross, watching her son and her savior taking his last breaths, she must have been filled with great despair. She had so much hope when he was born, yet the intense darkness and injustice of that day must have overwhelmed her heart and soul causing fear and confusion. Did Mary still find hope at the foot of the cross? We don’t know what she was thinking, but we do know she stayed there by side in the most gruesome of scenes. Through the deepest despair, maybe there was still a small glimmer of hope left in her knowing WHO her God was and what He was capable of. She had seen His miracles, She had heard His promises of a new kingdom. Maybe all that she had treasured in her heart through her son’s life along with her intimate relationship with Him was what she needed to carry her through those next three days.
Darkness will attempt to steal our hope as well. We may confidently believe in the gospel, yet when true suffering comes our way our hope that we thought was so confident may feel more like sinking sand to us. That hope gets more difficult to hold on to. I have found myself often on my knees in despair asking God for answers when life doesn’t make sense and the heartbreak feels like it’s just too much to handle. Henri Nouwen is quoted as saying: “Hope is not dependent on peace in the land, justice in the world, and success in the business. Hope is willing to leave unanswered questions unanswered and unknown futures unknown. Hope makes you see God’s guiding hand not only in the gentle and pleasant moments but also in the shadows of disappointment and darkness”.
How do we overcome the days when hope seems so far away? We trust in the character of our God and who we know Him to be. Hebrews 10: 23 says Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. We will not get our hopes up when we place them in the right place with the right person, and that is with Christ alone.
If hope is slipping through your fingers this Christmas and it’s getting harder to hang on to it, know that you are not alone. Remember WHO you are putting your hope in, and cherish the ways he has been faithful in your life. Don’t be afraid to hope. Know that our hope in Jesus is the only hope that doesn’t disappoint. Rest in the truth that Jesus is our Emmanuel, God with us. Let’s keep our hopes up this Christmas.