When Hope is What You Really Need

In the space of a week Seasons turn, and we go from thanks-giving to waiting, preparing for the birth-day of the Christ Child. And as usual, trepidation and excitement wrestle in my heart for the upper hand. It’s a battle between all the extra work of the season and all the things I truly love about Christmas, and it remains to be seen which feeling will come out on top. I know I am not alone in the mixed feelings. Despite all the glitter and gaiety, or maybe because of it, there is an undercurrent of quiet desperation– as if the whole world feels most strongly this time of year just how much we need a Savior. This is why we observe Advent, to remember in this month of preparation that the fears of our hearts and our wild hopes for happy endings intersected in a stable-cave in Bethlehem long ago on that Holy Night, when all of God’s promises were poured into flesh….all of them “fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

So here at the beginning of Winter…as the Christmas season launches headlong into its race to be bigger, do more, shine brighter… as one year crosses out its last days and another looms large ahead, we unpack our trappings of Christmas and mark off the days of our waiting. We light the candles and read again the old story, unpack the traditions of our years that are rich with meaning, hang the angels on the tree, and wrap up surprise gifts for those we love. All with the silent message: there is Hope for every longing heart. For God Himself has come down to us, and the world cannot ever be the same again.

For all who have held onto the bare branches of Winter and searched hard for Hope, listened long through the night for answers that never seem to come, looked at the blank expanse of a new year with nothing but dread at its enormity, the lights on the tree shine through the window like little beacons lighting the way. The beauty of this Season calls to the spirit, somehow– whispers what we are straining to hear all year long– that there is magic in this old world, something More than what we see and touch, something of eternal value and immense meaning hidden behind the glittery trappings. And the angels on the tree hold out hope in their hands: “See, the Sovereign Lord comes….He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:10-11)

But this season of frantic Joy to The World can grind you down to weariness, take away every last shred of peace if you are not looking for the One who brings it. Ironic, isn’t it, that the very way we celebrate the birth of the Savior only serves to underline our need for deliverance. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah seven hundred years ahead of time to reassure us about His coming: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…” (Isaiah 42:3) The Creator stoops to our need, bends to lift up a fragile broken world and make it new with His own flesh-and-blood hands. There is help for the burdens we carry, and hope for restoration of every crazy situation we face; the future may be unknown to us, but it is not so to Him, and He will bring justice (in the old-fashioned sense of protecting the innocent and vulnerable, and righting of wrongs). The words of the old hymn resound, “Fear not to trust my mighty arm; it brought salvation down.” (JW Howe) 

The angels over Bethlehem shouted until they shook the heavens, and I am sure it was magnificent and glorious when they announced Jesus’ birth, but I have always been drawn to the laments of the prophets, waiting for God’s promises to come true and reminding God’s people of His faithfulness. Thus saith the Lord…“By Myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear. They will say of Me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” (Isaiah 45:23-24) This is a solid Hope to hold onto, a compass point to steer by so we don’t get lost amid the shopping and baking and partying; this is the depth of meaning that underlies every sparkle of Christmas. God is with us, and He is for us– if you listen you can hear the angels: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12)


” So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)


“He has come for us, this Jesus
He’s the hope for all mankind
He has come for us, The Messiah,
Born to give us life…”
(He Has Come for Us, Meredith Andrews)