Everyone needs hope. We might even say that hope is essential to life. When people feel like they don’t have hope, they get depressed. In the most extreme cases of hopelessness, some are willing to attempt suicide. And while most suicide attempts are unsuccessful, sadly 5% actually succeed.
You can make the case that there is a connection between faith and hope. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When we speak of hope, there is a faith or a confidence that life is going to be ok, or even that everything will turn out for the best. There is also a connection between “the future” and hope. We don’t hope in the past, although we sometimes long for the “good old days.” However, while we can’t change the past, we can shape the future and our hope is connected to a ‘better’ future.
If there is one time of the year for self-examination and reflection, this is it. People set goals and dreams for the New Year, with the hope of improving their lives. For some, the answer lies in getting a gym membership. For others, it involves setting aside more money for the future. Whatever it is, we have high hopes attached to our New Years resolutions. To be sure, many people don’t make any resolutions for the New Year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have hope for a better future. It is simply found through different means.
I like how Christmas comes right before New Years because it reminds us where our hope is found. Of course I am referring to Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. 700 years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) For hundreds and even thousands of years, people anticipated the coming of the Messiah. Now, 2000 years after the coming of Christ, we look back in wonder and amazement at the miracle of the incarnation, of how God became man and dwelt among us.
The bible tells us that God brought salvation to the world through the death of his Son (Romans 5:10). Jesus became our substitute on the cross, in order that we might have His righteous (Romans 1:16-17). Let’s not forget, however, that Jesus conquered death through His resurrection. As the apostle Peter explains, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a ‘living hope’ through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3-4) Sadly, most people only have “dead” hope. They only have the hope of a better job, or a new car, or an early retirement, or something along those lines. None of those will last. They are only temporary and one day they won’t matter at all. In contrast, Christ offers us “living” hope, both for 2012 and for all eternity (John 3:16).
Where is your hope found, my friend? The bible tells us, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) If your hope is not found in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, then you will fail the test. It is my prayer that you will put your faith in Christ and know the joy of the Lord. Truly, there is no sweeter thing in the world.
Merry Christmas and a Hope-Filled New Year