For many people, 2010 has been a year of hardship and disappointment. Some approach the Christmas season with despair, so keenly aware of what they don’t have, and very distressed about it! Others seem anxious for January 1st, as though the changing of the calendar year will bring with it a changing of the very things that made 2010 arduous. Assuming 2010 was hard for you, how do find yourself concluding it, distressed or hopeful?
It’s at this point that many would simply tell those discouraged souls to not be discouraged. Just don’t be that way. Things will get better. They have to. Well, I’m not interested in that sort of inane nonsense. There has to be a reason for hope beyond the positivity of hope itself. Don’t tell me to “be hopeful” – tell me why I can be hopeful! And while we’re at it, maybe we should have those who took the above quiz (and said that they’re going into 2011 with hope) ask themselves a secondary question: why do you have hope for next year?
The children of Israel spent decades in captivity, dragged from their homes to far-off lands where their sense of culture and personal dignity were stripped away from them. They weren’t in a recession – they were in a cavernous pit of despair. Consider Isaiah’s description of exile:
“Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.”
(Isaiah 59:9 ESV)
The plain fact is that this is true of many people today: a whole lotta hoping, but very little realization of that hope. And the reality is, that left to our devices, this sort of futile hoping is all we’ll ever be able to muster. We’re either hopeless cynics or delusional optimists. This is why Christmas is so timeless and so precious! It heals the cynic and grounds the optimist. Jesus was (and is!) the only true light that those people were (and still are!) hoping for! St. John wrote of Christ,
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
(John 1:4-5 ESV)
How sad is it that so many of us who call ourselves by the name of Christ don’t truly believe he is Hope? We walk through this holiday season with as much stress and despair as the next person. Or we share the same vague, saccharine “hope” that any godless pagan can muster up, simply because they’d rather feel hopeful than be depressed. Enough! It’s about time that we realize that we don’t need a raise, a bonus, a job, health, or the extension of the Bush tax cuts – we need Emmanuel…God With Us. He is Light. He is Joy. He is Life! And He is With Us!
You know, 2011 may bring more cut-backs, lay-offs and let-downs. I may not have any reason to expect my circumstances to improve, but I can still have hope because I know that in the middle of all that, Jesus will still be Emmanuel – he’ll be with me. And Jesus is not a pacific aura; he’s a hands-on teacher and a daily guide. Jesus is the One who works bad circumstances out for my good! So my hope is that even if 2011 gets that much worse, Jesus will make me that much more patient and content and loving and kind and compassion and…like him! THAT is a reason to be full of hope.