The Gift of Hope…
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God… And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-2,5
In this first week of Advent, we focus our attention on HOPE. During this Christmas season, faith communities around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our “living Hope.” But I’ll be the first to admit, there are many other things that we are hopeful for during this time of year.
“I hope everyone likes the food that I worked so hard to make…” “I hope I get more than a jelly of the month membership for a bonus this year…” “I hope Uncle Dave doesn’t bring up politics at dinner, AGAIN…”
For some, these hopes carry much more weight with them. “I hope I can get through this holiday without her…” “I hope I can at least give my family SOMETHING this year…” “I hope I can at least spend time with SOMEONE this year…”.
Whether you believe in Jesus or not, we all hope for things to be better, and that’s a good thing. Afterall, the thrust of the Gospel is that Jesus’ reign as Lord is about making “all things new.”
But how does the hope we have in Jesus produce peace, joy, and love, when all of life’s circumstances are not yet made new? It is simple; we embrace His grace.
““The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”” (Luke 1:25)
I think that we are often tempted to put our “hope” in a box labeled wishful thinking or eager expectations. It would appear from scripture that our hope in Jesus is far too large to fit inside that box of ours. The hope we have in Jesus, is of course an eternal and holy future, but it is also the grace and mercy that we receive now. Not a grace that we “hope” to receive if we play our cards right. A grace that is freely given FIRST.
So, as we are tempted to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle, or as we are weighed down by the hurts of this world, we are to remember that His grace is sufficient. In our failures, our hurts, our detours, our unmet expectations, His grace is still there. His grace is still enough. The reason we can sing Joy to the World is not because of how many lights we have on our trees, it is because our slate has been cleaned by the grace of God no matter how many problems, pains, or poor choices we have experienced.
When we live in THIS HOPE, that is when the world sees the glory of God through Jesus. We can’t fault those that don’t know Jesus for putting their hope in the wrong things, because they have the same motives that we do, we all want things to be better. It is our opportunity to show them the beauty of our hope, that is Jesus. We embody this Hope when we accept the grace given to us and give that same grace in return to the world around us. That way, in a world of hustle and bustle, and a world that is still not yet made new for everyone, we can be a light. Not an artificial light that gets hung on a tree, but a true light that reflects the hope we have in Jesus.
“What if those on the outside looking in see something so attractive, so beautiful, and so radiant that they can’t help but want to be a part of it? When the church is singing a melody of love and hope, imagine those from afar respond, “We’re missing out on something beautiful.” (Radiant Church, Tara Beth Leach)