Hopeless at Christmas. This is where some found themselves as they waited for the original Christmas story, the coming of a messiah, to become a reality. With misplaced hopes that could never fulfill them and a broken identity that told them they were destined for a life of less than, it appeared as if all hope might be lost. Until it wasn’t.
This is where we left off last time. Whether at Christmas, or any given Tuesday, we can all find ourselves feeling hopeless at times. However, the problem isn’t the reality of hope but rather where it is placed. We grasp to the temporary for significance and lack a clear and ultimate source of hope. Lacking hope, we begin to accept that nothing can ever change and live accordingly.
But it did, and it can. How do we know? The original Christmas story.
In my last post, Hopeless at Christmas, we looked at Abraham and the reference to his faith and hope despite his circumstances. While not perfect, they were enduring as is referenced in Hebrews 11 along with others who remained hope-filled. What was it that allowed them to see past the hopelessness when so many others did not?
The next chapter, or portion, of this letter called Hebrews speaks to this very question. The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)
What can we learn about remaining hope-filled at Christmas, and in general, regardless of our circumstances from the people talked about in Hebrews 11? At least two things.
First, we need to place our hope in the right place. Instead of temporary relief, we need to seek true fulfillment in the only source through which we are created to find it. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, calls it a “living hope” (I Peter 1:3, NIV) and points us to its only wellspring: Jesus. It is only in fixing our eyes on Jesus and placing our hope in him that we can grab onto the hope and significance we need. In fact, this is by design. We were created to find the ultimate hope we need from God through Jesus. How do we know this is true? This leads to the second insight we can learn from the people in Hebrews 11.
John, another one of Jesus’ closest followers, starts off the book bearing his name with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shine in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5, NIV)
The “Word” referenced here is Jesus. What does it say about Jesus? He is our source of life and light. Not only were we created through him, God sent him to provide us with ultimate hope and new life. How much hope must the God who created us have for us to send his son to die so that we could have it? This should reframe our identity, which is our second stop.
It is in finding our identity in the way God sees us that we can hold onto this real and living hope. How does he see us? As worthy of love and full of potential. It is here that we need to live: we were created by a God who loves us and created us on purpose and for a purpose. Do you see yourself this way? The people in Hebrews 11 seemingly did and it changed the way they lived. They lived with hope, waiting for the day that would change everything.
This brings us back to the original Christmas story. Just a few lines down, John talks about this moment when he writes, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” (John 1:9, NIV) In this moment, after years of silence, God showed up to the least likely people, a group of shepherds, to announce that hope in the form of Jesus had arrived. At a time when so many had become hopeless, an explosion of hope arrived, the waiting was over, and everything changed. Like the shepherds that day, we can grab onto this explosion of hope.
In many ways, this is what the season of Advent is all about. It is a time of waiting and anticipation meant to remind us of the incredible hope that arrived on that original Christmas Day. This presents an opportunity for us to use the Christmas season as a launching off point for a more hope-filled life.
This starts with a few practical steps. First, you need to be honest about where you are. Ask yourself, “where am I really placing my hopes?” Is it in something temporary or the only source that can provide it? Write down your answers and then replace misplaced hopes with Jesus. You may even find a few verses in the Bible to reinforce this truth.
Second, do some self-examination around identity. From where do you gain your significance? What do you believe about yourself and say about yourself in your most honest moments? Are you viewing yourself through the lens of God, or a different, distorted lens? Do you see yourself as created on purpose for a purpose by a God who loves you, or as created for a life of less than? Clarity around your identity will allow the brokenness to begin to heal.
Lastly, try to suspend your current reality and put yourself in the place of the shepherds that miraculous night. Imagine if you had read stories about a promised messiah, but did not know if and when he would come. What would it have been like to be there when the waiting ended? When the original Christmas story became a reality? It changed everything for them, and maybe it could for you too this Christmas season.
This is my prayer for each of us this Christmas. We can find ourselves hopeless at Christmas, or any given day of the year, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. The original Christmas story tells us there is still hope and it changes everything.
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