Durinng the Christmas season we live in somewhat of a bubble, a Christmas bubble. Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect most of us are in the same bubble. We find ourselves in a bubble of festivities, of busyness, of activities, of shopping and music. These are not bad things, but they can insulate us from the ubiquitous presence of our own and others troubles and traumas that pound against our lives like waves against a ship. The world is a hard place, but Christmas should not be a distraction from the harsh realities of life but a bright and beautiful ray of hope in a bleak landscape. Christmas really does offer us hope. It is not some wish fulfillment, but the reality of God’s love for us in Christ.
Hope is a beautiful thing. We need it as we need breath for life. Hopelessness can pull the life out of the human spirit. Christmas reminds us what God has done for us. It reminds us that God is for us and that in Christ all things will work together for good. We need reminding of this and God certainly does that for us. In Romans 15:13 we read, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may overflow with hope.”
The word hope is an amazing word. People use it to express varying levels of uncertainty, but it can also be use to communicate an attitude of optimism. The Bible almost always uses it in this optimistic sense. Biblical hope conveys a confident expectation about the future, but how does this work? How do people extrapolate hope from hard times? What mechanism is used to extract certainty out of uncertainty? We can live in a bubble of unreality, but God shows us a better way. Again, Romans 15:13 reveals the path to realistic hope.
The first thing we see in Romans 15:13 is the source of hope. The source (where it comes from) of hope is God, “May the God of hope.” When we say that God is the source of hope, we mean that hope comes from God through Jesus Christ. If we think about God without Jesus, we really don’t have any basis for hope. It is only by who Jesus is and what he has done for us that we can have true hope. Jesus is the mediator between God and people. He is the substitute who takes our punishment for sin, so that we can stand in right relationship with God. This is actually the message of Christmas. Jesus said in the house of Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man came (Christmas) to seek and save what was lost.” The road from Christmas leads to Easter.
But Romans 15:13 doesn’t stop there. We also see the display of hope. What does hope look like in a person’s life? The evidence that hope is in a person’s heart is genuine joy and peace. Joy and peace exude from every pore of a hopeful heart. Putting your hope in Jesus Christ connects you to his joy and peace. His joy and peace are deep and satisfying. It’s what we all long for. We can find it in no other place but in him.
Many people live with hopelessness from time to time and some every day. Hopelessness is an intolerable existence. Hopelessness drains every ounce of joy and life from the human spirit and leaves a heavy weight of despair. While this is true, hope does not vacate the human heart easily. Some set of devasting circumstances must crush hope under its force. When this happens the road back to hope is a difficult journey. Without hope it’s hard to keep moving forward. That is why we need to know the path to hope.
What is the path of hope? Hope is a wonderful thing that everybody wants. How do we get it? The path of hope is faith, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” Without faith in Jesus Christ there is no way to latch on to a deeper level of hope we need and want. Many people who do not have faith in Jesus Christ are hopeful people, but their hope is built on a thin layer of optimistic desire that can be broken. Rock solid hope comes through faith in Jesus. If we put our faith in him it will hold.
The last thing we notice about this Christmas hope is the power of hope. What is the power source of hope? Everything must have a power source. Computers need electricity, humans need food, Christians need the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to empower us with hope. When hope seems elusive, we can turn to God in faith for the power of the Holy Spirit, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may overflow with hope.”
We all face uncertainties that have the real potential to rob us of our hope. When this happens, we must hope in God through Jesus Christ by trusting in him, so that joy and peace may fill our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This is made possible by the Christmas story. God has come to us in Jesus Christ to bring the bright and beautiful rays of hope. I think it’s best expressed in some of the words of the Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem.
“O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”