Summary: Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all hope, and thus a
One of the best things about Christmas, in my opinion at least, is the sense of anticipation that comes with it. We see it most readily among little children, who follow the “Elf on the Shelf” around the house from day to day, and carefully craft their Christmas wish lists, and eagerly jump on Santa’s lap. In our house, it starts right after her May birthday. Mary Ellen sees something she wants, and so we advise her to remember it and ask for it for Christmas, which, of course is too far away. But as December 25th approaches, you can watch her excitement grow as she anticipates finally receiving these things she has been wishing for for weeks, or even months. And really, it’s that way with all children, and even some of us adults, too.
There are most certainly more than a few people in this world who joyfully announce that Christmas is their favorite time of year. Whether that’s because of the decorations, or the carols, or the homemade goodies, or the gifts, varies from person to the next, but that doesn’t change the simple truth that there are a lot of hopes built up around Christmas. What’s ironic about such Christmas hopes, though, is that often times we end up disappointed. The gingerbread cookies get burned, or we don’t get the gift we wanted most, and just like that, all our hopes are dashed.
I remember one year when I was about nine or ten years old. My sister and I had both decided we wanted a “Barbie Dream House” for Christmas that year. And, of course, that was a pretty extravagant gift, so my parents explained to us on more than one occasion that if we were going to get Barbie’s “Dream House” at all, we were going to have to share it. That didn’t deter us, though; the “Dream House” was what we wanted. And so we wrote it on all our Christmas lists, we told Santa all about it and anyone else who would listen. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we would get out our Barbies on the weekends and play with them, excitedly dressing them and preparing them for that day when their new home would arrive!
And sure enough, Christmas morning, we were elated to find a beautiful, glorious, real-life Barbie Dream House sitting under the Christmas tree! But it gets even better, because next to Barbie’s Dream House was a Barbie swimming pool! My sister and I were beside ourselves. We had gotten everything we wanted and more! Well, needless to say, before Christmas dinner had settled in our stomachs, we were up in my sister’s room with the Dream House all set up, the pool full of water, and the Barbie’s arrayed around the new landscape. But it goes downhill from there. It wasn’t too long before the front door broke off the house, over-extended by our excited hands. Then, my sister picked up her favorite Barbie doll, now dressed in a glittery pink bathing suit, and placed her in the pool for Barbie’s first swim. Which also turned out to be Barbie’s last swim because the water made her hair a tangled rat’s nets, and her beautiful rubber legs a splotchy mess. She looked like she had leprosy. Suddenly, that Dream House that we had so looked forward to was pretty disappointing.
And really, that’s the way it is with a lot of Christmas gifts, isn’t it? We get our hopes built up all around some supposedly wonderful things, only to quickly discover that the gift card runs out too quickly, or the toy isn’t as great as advertised, or the new electronic device is too complicated to operate. But you know, when it comes to Christmas, there are some gifts that won’t break. Ever. Of course, the obvious answer is Jesus Christ. But over the next four weeks, we are going to consider some other amazing Christmas gifts, too: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Today, as we think about the gift of hope, we may quickly conclude that our Christmas hope is in the gift of Christ’s incarnation, his birth as God in the flesh. But that misses the wonderful fact that HOPE itself is a gift. Religion and culture writer, Andy Crouch, says this, “Human beings can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live for four seconds without hope.”
Just think about how very true that statement is. When a loved one is taken away from us, what would we do without hope in the promised resurrection of the dead and life in the world to come? When we are fighting against cancer, what would we do without hope that the treatments will work? When wars are raging between nations and our loved ones are deployed overseas, what would we do without hope that sooner (rather than later) those wars will end, the killing will stop, and our beloved family will come home? When we are out of work, and falling behind on house payments, what would we do without hope that we will once again be employed?