Summary: Disappointments will come and we have the choice to let them bury us or buoy us.
Christmas is a season not only of joy, but, if we’re honest, also of disappointment. Sometimes we’re disappointed with gifts. When Laura’s brother, Grayson, was in Middle School he received one such gift. To appreciate this you have to get the image in your mind of the entire family gathered around the Christmas tree. Kids, parents, and grandparents are there. One set of grandparents watched with delight as Grayson torn open the package from them. The open box revealed a brand new set of Superman Underoos. (In case you don’t remember those let me remind you what they were. Underoos were basically a T-shirt and a pair of underwear briefs decorated like the costume of your favorite superhero.) This would make a great gift … for a young boy. It’s not too cool for an adolescent on the verge of manhood. It was a disappointing gift to say the least. To make matters worse, the grandparents kept insisting that Grayson try them on right then and there.
Sometimes our disappointments during this time of the year go a bit deeper. As the New Year dawns we often assess our lives and conclude that it’s lacking. We’re not where we want to be financially or physically or spiritually. We still haven’t written the great American novel or learned to play the piano or taken a trip to Hawaii.
Sometimes, if we’re painfully honest, we feel disappointment with God. That relationship we’ve been praying for has not been restored. The sickness that we’ve been struggling with has not gone away. The people we’ve been desperate to see come to faith in Christ are more apathetic to spiritual things than the year before. The job didn’t come through. The church didn’t grow. That loved one died. Although we still have faith, we’re somewhat disappointed with God because life has not turned out as we expected.
There’s no sin in disappointment with God, but we do need to take care how we handle it. If we’re not diligent, disappointment can lead to despair or bitterness. We can become cynical and pessimistic always expecting the worst. Unchecked disappointment can rob us of our joy. It can also erect a roadblock to whatever God wants to accomplish in and through us.
As we enter into the Christmas season I want to share with you how to maintain your hope in the midst of your letdowns so those things want be true of you. Disappointments will come and we have the choice to let them bury us or buoy us. We can let them crush us or draw us closer to God. If we’ll do the latter, God will bless us with a gift that will not disappoint.
Maintaining HOPE in Midst of Your Letdowns
Zechariah and Elizabeth were well acquainted with disappointment. They entered their golden years childless. In our culture that’s not such a bad thing, but in Jewish society childlessness brought shame. It was one of the few reason for which a man was given the liberty to divorce his wife. Some of the rabbis taught a couple with no children had been cursed by God and would share no part in the resurrection. Practically speaking children were your social security and welfare net in the Jewish culture. The more you could produce, the more blessed you were considered to be.
There was a greater disappointment that Zechariah and Elizabeth shared with their people. Centuries earlier God had promised to establish the throne of King David as part of an everlasting kingdom. The Jews expected to rule the nations, but at this point in history they were subjugated under the yoke of the hated Romans. They’d been waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah to arrive and throw off their masters and re-establish the kingdom of God on earth. So far, no Messiah had come. Even worse, God gave no reason of explanation. By Zechariah and Elizabeth’s day the Jews had experienced God’s silence for 400 years. They were most certainly disappointed with God.
Yet, in their disappointment, they did not abandon hope. Neither Zechariah and Elizabeth nor a sizeable number of the Jews gave up on God. Here’s how they did it and our first lesson:
Hold on to the last thing God told you
Despite God’s 400 year silence, the nonappearance of the Messiah, and the subjugation of the Romans the Jewish people continued their traditions. They kept studying and practicing the Law of God, just as He told them to do. They scrupulously preserved the Old Testament by copying it generation after generation. Worship in the temple persisted for centuries, basically unchanged, because God had prescribed the ritual they were to follow.
In Luke’s gospel we find Zechariah participating in that long Jewish tradition. As a priest he served in the temple, perpetuating the sacrifices required by God’s Law. Because of their faithfulness to keep doing the last thing God told them to do God broke His 400 year silence, set in motion the events leading to the coming of the Messiah, and initiated the re-establishment of the throne of David through Jesus Christ.