Recultivating a Lost Hope at Christmas

Star of HopeAdvent has never been a meaningful time for me. I’ve always loved Christmas; music, carols, decorations, the tree, but I’ve never consciously practiced an Advent meditation. I identify more with Jesus’ death that I do with his birth. Birth is about hope and hope is not something I’m used to having.

My early life was fairly hopeless. We learned early on that to expect good is an unreasonable expectation. What is good about constant violence? What is hopeful about living your young life with no end in sight? Where’s the hope in that? I wasn’t even mature enough to know that freedom was years away, but still there nonetheless. Christmas was the one time of year where things lightened up a little. Still, it was not the most joyous of times.

Jesus’ death at the hands of others; now that I can understand. That makes sense to me. Waiting for a baby to be born that will save the world makes no sense. An adult Jesus I can deal with, an infant Jesus is absurd. But I am trying this Advent season to cultivate hope. Because what is a Christian but one who HOPES that what she believes is true and will lead to her salvation? “…therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope” (Acts 2:26).

What can I do this season that will cultivate hope for a Christ-filled future? I can be among people that are hopeful rather than those that cultivate hopelessness. I can refuse to watch politics on TV or listen to talk radio; two prime tools that cultivates hopelessness.   I can develop strong hope with my co-workers at the large church I work for. This is itself an atmosphere of hope that I thank God for. All I have to do is envision the work environments of times past and I thank God for the job I have now. I am working for the hope found in the Christian faith daily. I can find the hope first and foremost in my family and the hopeful lives of my children.  I can hope and wait for the future with the congregation I call home in my small rural town. They are not perfect, but they are all I have to hope with; people of like minds and hearts.  Lastly, I will put my hope in Jesus Christ “…through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Rom. 5)

Character produces hope. Maybe that’s why there is so little hope in myself and in the world at large.  Suffering leads to endurance and endurance produces character. Character produces hope. Well, I’ve suffered. I’ve endured. But my character leaves much to be desired. Maybe this is why hope is so elusive. We learn nothing from our character and our faith fails us. This Advent season, I am going to ask God for faith and hope and work on my character that both may come about.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8).

Best blessings to you this Advent Season!

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7 thoughts on “Recultivating a Lost Hope at Christmas

  1. This is a beautiful post and it is deep. I love the scriptures you have quoted, and also your writings around it. I don’t really know what Advent is but I guess it has something to do with Jesus’ birth. But isn’t that Christmas? hehe.

  2. Hi Diana, Advent is the season before Christmas, specifically the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. Tomorrow will be 2nd Advent. The church cycle uses Advent as a kind of buildup, waiting for the Birth of Jesus on Christmas Day, kind of like using the 40 days of Lent to precede Easter. Liturgical churches pay more attention to the cycle of the church year than less liturgical ones, like Baptists, Charismatics, etc. Best Blessings of Advent to you! 🙂

  3. Hey that is interesting, thanks for telling me! God bless you too this Advent (can you say that? this Advent, like this Christmas? lol) I guess I’m pretty illiterate but what is a liturgical church please? lol.

    You know sometimes I am amazed at how little I know about terms used in the christian world. So often I hear/read speakers and writers using these words and I try to figure out what they mean from the context. Can you tell me what Palm Sunday is? I heard of that in a couple of John Piper sermons. Hehe.

    Diana

  4. Diana, No problem! I had to learn all these myself and it helps that I work in a liturgical church, but do not attend one personally. A liturgical church is one that follows a Christian cycle throughout the year that includes set readings from the Bible for each Sunday of the year (called a Lectionary) and that has a more ritualized and formal worship setting. Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans have set worship elements every Sunday, like always saying the Lord’s Prayer at the same place in their bulletins, or like the same set of Prayers before Communion. They always have a Eucharist (Communion)during worship too because Communion is their main focus, not preaching which is more of “low” church focus (Some people use the term “low church” to describe non-liturgical churches and “high church” to describe liturgical churches). Now these are generalizations and some churches are mixing up their worship styles more and more to include elements of low and high church styles. Palm Sunday is the Sunday preceding Easter. In the Gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and people were waving palms ahead of him as a kind of proclamation of the new King. It’s quite neat actually, the way liturgical churches incorporate incidents in the life of Jesus into worship. Liturgical churches act out the Gospels literally within their worship and try to follow the path of Jesus from Christmas to Easter. You get the same liturgy every Sunday with different scripture readings for that day. Baptist churches (and Charismatic, etc.) do not follow a liturgy and freely change it according the the needs of the pastor, congregation, or promptings from the Holy Spirit. I hope this helps! 🙂 And yes, saying blessings during the Advent season is entirely appropriate!

  5. Thanks Ann, that makes things very clear to me. I like the scene where Jesus comes into Jerusalem on a donkey, I imagine it to be such a sweet sight. Piper is a baptist pastor but I think his church celebrates Palm Sunday, I wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise I don’t think, hehe. Anyway it is always nice to re-live the gospel! Praise Jesus 🙂

    Great discussion, and great learning for me.
    God bless you 🙂
    Diana

  6. A lovely post, Ann. I’m sorry to hear that you had such a tough time as a kid. I have a better idea now where your gentleness of spirit comes from.

    The link between suffering, endurance, character, and hope is very real, but it’s possible to fail at each step. We only make it the whole length of the chain, and enter into hope, by the grace of God.

    God bless you during Advent and Christmas!

  7. Stephen, Thanks for the encouragement! I’ve never had anyone tell me I have a gentle spirit before. I think I’m mellowing with age AND with the grace of God! 🙂 Blessings to you and yours as well.

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