The Christmas season is upon us—a season with its own dedicated food, music and foliage; a season that sees our calendars filled with events; our houses filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of the season; and our hearts filled with Christmas cheer (or dread or anxiety or sadness or some combination of all these things). Basically, Christmas is a very full season. But in this season of “more” (more events, more gifts, etc.) Christians are called to focus on “less.” In the hustle and bustle of this demanding season, Christians are called to slow down and experience the simple gift of Christ.
Guiding us through this season we have Advent in the liturgical calendar. In this season, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, Christians celebrate Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each week as we gather, we light a candle to remember these gifts of God.
During the first week of Advent, we celebrate Hope. But what is hope, really? We say it a lot—“I hope I get that new job,” or “We hope you’ll consider our offer.” We use the word almost interchangeably with the word “want.” But “wanting” a new job and “hoping for” a new job are two very different things upon further examination. To “want” something is to desire it. To “hope for” something is to desire it, but with an expectation that it will happen. Hope has more weight to it. Hope means more.
In Jeremiah 33:14-16, we read:
“The day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them.
“In those days and at that time
I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.
He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
In that day Judah will be saved,
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
And this will be its name:
‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.” (NLT)
In this text, the Lord is telling His people that He will provide for them. These people, who are living under constant threat of attack and defeat at the hands of Babylonian armies, who have had no apparent benefit from being His people in their present situation, need to hear this encouragement: that they will not always be marginalized, under attack, homeless, and without a future—that justice will prevail. One day they will live in safety.
Maybe you and I need this message of hope, too. Because through hope we remember that God is good, and more than that, He is trustworthy. In this world where things sometimes seem bleak, when it feels like darkness abounds, we need a reminder that not only does God promise us good things, but also that he delivers on His promises. He has proved time after time, year after year, throughout history, that what He promises, He WILL do.
We know the rest of the story after this Jeremiah passage. The Lord did provide a righteous descendant (v. 15), Jesus, who lived a just and righteous life; he died a necessary death, and he provided the way of salvation (v. 16). Because of Christ, we have hope—both for this life and for eternity. No matter our current situation, we can believe God’s promise that He is working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28), and we can believe that He has provided a way of salvation for us, eternally (John 3:16).
So in this season, let’s hope for more. Let’s want presents and holiday cheer, without expectation, and be okay if we don’t get them. But let’s hope for the Lord’s promises for us, whatever those may be. Let’s believe Him for those things, trust Him to provide them, and then praise Him once He does.