The Hope of Christmas

The advent season is the time that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is a time when all believers join together in the hope that was born on that first Christmas day as well as the peace and joy He has brought into our lives. I feel led to spend the next few weeks reflecting on the hope, the peace, and the joy that has come into our world through the birth of Christ.
Hope came first. Hope was born in Genesis 3 when God promised to send a Savior to crush the serpent’s head. Hope persisted through the flood and delivered Noah and his family onto dry land. Abraham found hope in the call of God to leave his home and follow the Lord to the promise land. In twenty years, hope was renewed at the birth of Isaac, and then Jacob, and then Jacob’s 12 sons.
Hope seemed to be lost after the benevolent Pharaoh died and a new Pharaoh rose to power in Egypt. He enslaved the people of God and put them under a heavy burden. But, hope was revived in a prince named Moses who led them out of captivity in obedience to the Lord.
Hope persisted in fits and starts as a stiff-necked people could not decide if they trusted God to meet their needs. Nevertheless, hope endured through their sin. It shined brightly through King David who received the promise of an enduring kingdom with no end. Before long, though, God’s people lost their way and found themselves in captivity yet again.
In the midst of their captivity, hope came through the mouths and pens of the prophets. Jeremiah wrote to them:
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart… and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
Hope in God’s promise was realized in the days of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. God’s people returned to the promise land and God’s anger abated. Hope seemed to disappear again as the people again became disobedient. In their helplessness, they were conquered first by the Greeks and then by the Romans.
For 400 years, God was silent. There were no living prophets of God to give encouragement. What they had in the written word of God, they copied over and over again. They continued to hope even when all hope seemed to be lost. Then, without warning, a whole host of angels appeared in the sky over Bethlehem. That heavenly choir announced the Savior’s birth to the lowly shepherds keeping watch over their sheep.
Hope came to life that night in the person of a baby boy born in a manger. The world would come to learn that their living hope had a name, Jesus of Nazareth. His mother was a virgin maiden named Mary, and His father was the Great I Am.
Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise of Jeremiah, for He made His home with the hopeless. Many searched for Him and found Him. They called out to Him and He heard them. He died and was raised from the dead, and in this, He gathered men and women from every nation to Himself. He brought them out of their dark places of exile and transported them into His kingdom of light.

Hope lives even today. The tomb remains empty, and Jesus, the hope of the nations, remains on the throne. We continue to hope in Him in the same way that God’s people hoped in the promise of God in Jeremiah’s day. Even in these dark and difficult days when we are hard-pressed on every side with strivings within and fears without, we hope in Him. We hope even in the midst of our individual circumstances, knowing that He still has a plan. We hope, knowing that when we pray to Him, He hears us. We hope, knowing that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we shall find Him. We hope because hope is alive.