Hopefully, we’ve all had opportunity to reflect, since Thanksgiving Day, on the appropriateness of entering the season of Christmas with an attitude of thanksgiving. The benefits for us are countless especially because we tend today to consider ourselves deprived whenever we realize that there is someone who has something that we don’t have.
The opportunity to pause and reflect on the fact that there are things in our lives for which we may be thankful can begin the soothing work of calming our frantic nerves and helps to open the door for those spiritual blessings promised by God to those who have trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Those things for instance which we, may pause to consider during the ensuing Christmas season (e.g., hope, peace, love, and joy) suddenly find that “room at the inn” has been made by the cleansing work of gratitude.
And the fact that there is truly a deserving recipient of our thanksgiving, namely God, reminds us that there is One, greater than ourselves, Who is in control of our history even as it continues to unfold before our very eyes. Our gratitude causes us to recognize that He is actively at work today in spite of our pride and inclination for selfishness: at work in the world… and at work in our individual lives.
Our hope is not in a presidential administration. Nor is it in an improving economy. It isn’t in military prowess or in technology or even in universal healthcare (even if it works). Our hope is in God.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation” (Psalm 42:1-2a, 5 ESV).
Throughout the ages, men and women have discovered that there is hope in only Jesus Christ. It remains crystal clear that even in our changing world we desperately need hope.
“Ron” was sure that he could find fulfillment in his work, and always gunned for bigger and better jobs. But then he lost his job through a layoff. During this time of feeling like a failure and in this season of worry for his family’s needs, a neighbor told him that God could give him hope and proof of it was that Jesus died for his sin. “Ron” placed his faith in Jesus and found his hopelessness turned into an irrepressible certainty that God was in control. After a few months of trusting that God’s time was best, a door was opened for him at a new company… one in which his needs were met and also one in which he could share with others what he had found in Jesus Christ.
“Tami” discovered that the unconditional love and acceptance for which she had been searching in an endless string of rocky relationships couldn’t be found in a man. One after another, the relationships resulted in her being betrayed and broken. She lost all sense of personal worth and had no hope left. But then she hit a website that talked about filling up the emptiness inside with hope… the kind of hope that Jesus gave to a woman at a well in Samaria nearly two thousand years ago. She learned that Jesus was crucified in her place, showing an unconditional love that even death cannot suffocate or defeat. “Tami” bowed her head right then, admitting that she had sinned and seeking His forgiveness. She gave Him her heart and found that she was both precious and beautiful to Him. With this new start she quit racing from relationship to relationship and eventually found a man who also belonged to the Lord and with whom she truly belonged.
Let’s not mistakenly assume, however, that trusting Jesus is a guarantee that our temporal wants and desires, even those things we need in the short term, are going to be granted us. We may find that they are not, especially those things that may in the long run conflict with our Lord’s eternal goal of making us holy vessels in whom He dwells. Some people trust God, but find that they must still labor in grueling ways to see food put on the table. Others find that turning to Jesus does not cure them of cancer or take away their struggles with addiction or remove them from a war zone. What it does do, however, is set their eyes on a goal beyond the reach of our temporary trials and troubles. It gives them a sense of purpose and victory that their circumstances cannot touch.
In the end, if our eyes are on anything other than God, darkness infects our sight and causes us to either despair or to be swooned into the short-lived delusion that we can find happiness and wholesomeness in ourselves or in some sort of substitute for God. But the gloom of humanity’s hopelessness is shattered by the piercing light of God’s presence. The rays of His love brings new life to hearts and souls withered by life’s unfulfilled promises, scorching hatreds, and parching Godlessness.
“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:3-6 ESV).
Remember that this season is a celebration of hope… hope that is only found in God’s gift of His Son. This season is all about the hope we can find in Jesus Christ.