Merry Christmas! It's hard to believe we have made it to the 25th day of our Advent Journey and have come to an end as we celebrate the Birth of our Lord Jesus! It has been an incredible journey with you, and I am so glad we have shared these days of reflection and soul-seeking and truth-finding in God's Word together. I am glad that we have remembered the coming of Christ to Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. Today was Christmas Day, and after watching It's a Wonderful Life I am writing my final blog for the season. I have to be honest, it was an unconventional, unexpected type of Christmas Day for our little family. Christmas Eve was wonderful, but today our travel plans got changed due to weather and it wasn't the picture-perfect Christmas for which I had hoped. I was a little disappointed. Hope differed makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12) We all have hopes around Christmastime. We hope that we might receive that special present...we hope we can pay our bills and finish the year well...we hope that our kids don't catch the winter bug going around...we hope that our holiday baking and cooking turned out okay...we hope that time off from work won't create too much stress in the New Year...we hope that we can really stick to those resolutions in 2018 that we're already thinking about...we hope that we can get along with family at all the holiday parties...we hope that it will be a white Christmas...
But sometimes our hopes are deferred. Because that is life. Just like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, we realize that our days aren't perfect and sometimes even Christmas is far from perfect. Maybe this Christmas you feel alone. Maybe you are waiting for that prodigal child to return or for your sister to call or for your spouse to forgive you. Maybe, like our family experienced, the winter weather has made a change in plans and your vacation time is going to be spent a little differently than you had planned. Maybe you are mourning the loss of a loved one who passed away this past year, or even years ago, but Christmas just seems to be the most difficult and painful time of the year for you. Maybe you had to work on Christmas and couldn't even take off to be with family. Maybe you had a beautiful Christmas, but there is still something more, something deeper that you are longing for, that seems to be missing. Hope deferred.
Christmas is all about heart- about the love of Christ come to earth to live and die for us and give us eternal life. But in the midst of real-life (unlike the Hallmark holiday movies), sometimes we are heart-sick, even at Christmastime. And for that type of illness, there is only one remedy, Proverbs' wisdom tells us. Desire fulfilled. God created us with such deep longings and desires. We are hard-wired to desire. We are knit together in a way that creates us with very specific desires and hopes. But there is one unique and absolute longing that is in every human soul which must be met for Christmas Hope to be fulfilled. C.S. Lewis writes of this soul-longing:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Psalm 43. Verse 5 says:
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
I love how personal this Psalm gets. I love how it asks that deep, penetrating question, calling oneself out from hope deferred and placing one's hope in GOD ALONE. And that hope turns to praise and worship!
The Apostle Paul gets very personal with the human experience and struggle as well, when he writes his profound letter to the church in Rome:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but ty the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God...Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Just seven chapters later, He quotes from the prophet Isaiah, and He very clearly points to Jesus Christ as our one and only, forever hope.
And again, Isaiah says,
"The Root of Jesse will spring up,
One who will arise to rule over the nations;
in Him the Gentiles will hope."
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
There it is- the Christmas message packaged in just two plain verses. The God of hope is the only One who can fill us with all joy and all peace as we trust in HIM this Christmas and always. Jesus is the Root of Jesse, He is the King Forever who will rule the nations and spring up to offer both Jew and Gentile Hope. To offer YOU and ME hope! During Advent, we have reflected on the coming of Christ to Bethlehem when He was born in a manger long ago...but now we anticipate the arrival of his Second Coming, when He will rule forevermore and joy and peace will be ushered in with all perfection. I cannot wait for the day when every hope deferred is crushed by the Tree of Life, who fulfills the longing of our souls and gives us life eternal, which we so desire.
I wish you a very Merry Christmas with hope rooted in the Root of Jesse! I pray that these 25 days of journeying through Advent with simple words and Biblical treasures has led your heart and mine straight to the heart of Christ and reminded all of us what true Christmas HOPE is all about.