All I Want for Christmas is…Hope

Luke 2:38

December 23, 2007 | Brian Bill

Hark, the Herald angels sing,

‘Glory to the newborn king;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled’

Yes, God and sinners reconciled.

If we were to take a survey today we would find that hope is hard to find during the holidays.  I invited someone to today’s service and when he saw the invite he said, “Looking for hope at Christmas?  I need hope all year long.”  It’s tough to sing “Joy to the World” when there’s so much junk in our lives.  Some of us secretly wonder if it’s really true that the “hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”  

Is Christmas all about baking?  Or is it wrapped up in football and food (Go Packers)?  For some it’s such a sad season that they can barely talk about it.  Or is it all about shopping?  Some of you have been crushed by something that has happened in your life and you’ve lost all hope.  

Definition of Hope

Hope is not only hard to find; it’s difficult to define.  Some equate hope with an optimistic feeling that all will turn out well.  We hear this every spring from Cubs fans.  For some it’s wishful thinking whether it’s related to the weather: “I hope it’s nice today” or a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled.

That reminds of Larry and Elmer who were out hunting in the woods and got lost.  Trying to reassure his friend, Larry said, “Don’t lose hope.  All we have to do is shoot into the air three times, stay where we are, and just hope that someone finds us.”  They shot into the air three times, but no one came.  After a while, they tried again but there was still no response.  They decided to try once more but not before Elmer said, “I hope it works this time.  We’re down to our last three arrows.”

It’s easy to get hurt when our hopes are high and they come crashing to the ground.  I can remember one Christmas when I was growing up that I really wanted “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” so I could see if “Red Rocker” or “Blue Bomber” would win.  This classic toy came out in 1966 and is still available in stores today.  I dropped hints everywhere.  I wrote letters to Santa and cut out pictures in magazines and put them on my mom’s pillow.  I even tried extra hard to be nice to my sisters during the countdown to Christmas – which wasn’t easy to do!

When Christmas morning finally came, I jumped out of bed and ran to the tree.  I looked for a box with my name on it.  I looked everywhere but couldn’t find it.  Do you know what I got that year?  I’ll never forget it.  My mom, who loves to sew, made feetie pajamas for all five of us kids – my sisters had pink ones, and mine were blue.  I could barely take the shame of it all…feetie pajamas instead of rock-em-sock-em-robots.  I’m still waiting for them to this day.  My hopes were dashed.  I was a living example of Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

Some of you have lost hope today but it’s not just because you didn’t get a present you wanted.  Your life has been decimated by disappointment and your expectations have evaporated.  

I came across a couple Bible-based definitions of hope that are very helpful: Hope is a future certainty grounded in a present reality.  Here’s another one: Hope is wishing for what God has already promised us.  The Bible says in Isaiah 40:31 that strength is renewed for those who hope in the Lord.  This word is more than just a wishful optimism.  

In the Old Testament it means “to bind together, often by twisting.”  It refers to the process of making a rope by taking at least two strands of material and twisting them together.  Understood in this way, hope means that I bring my pain to the Lord on the one hand and on the other hand I hold specific promises of God.  To hope means to wrap my problems together with God’s promises [hold up two ropes and wrap together].

We could say it this way: Hold on to the rope of hope when it’s hard to cope.  Ecclesiasts 4:12 adds God’s provision to His promises and our problems: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  The third strand is the Savior, Jesus Christ, born on Christmas, crucified on Good Friday and raised on Easter.  He is heaven’s child, the hope of the world.  With Him wrapped around our lives, we are safe and secure [hold up red rope and wrap it around the other two].

The word “hope” is used some 52 times in the New Testament and is always connected in some way to God; that’s enough hope for every week of the year!  

Dimensions of Hope

By its very definition hope is something that is invisible.  2 Corinthians 4:18 urges us to “Fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”  Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  These two verses teach that if we’re going to hold on to the rope of hope so that we can cope, we must embrace its past, present and future dimensions.  When your grip begins to slip, hold on to…

1. Past Promises. 

The Old Testament looked forward to the coming of Christ as God progressively revealed His plan to send His promised One.  Isaiah 64:1 longingly pleads: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…”  This was fulfilled when Jesus was given the name Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”  God came down at Christmas.  In the first half of the Bible we read of people hoping and longing and waiting.  After Jesus is born, we see this longing fulfilled.  A woman named Anna is an example of this in Luke 2:38 because when she sees the baby Jesus she gives thanks and speaks about heaven’s child to “all who were looking forward to redemption.”  For what things are you looking this Christmas?

2. Present Help. 

No matter what you’re going through right now, no matter how much pain is pummeling you, or how much failure you’re feeling, you can count on God to help right now.  Psalm 46:1: “God is an ever-present help in trouble.”  David Jeremiah has written a book called, “A Bend in the Road,” in which he explains how everyone sooner or later, comes up against something unexpected and unforeseen.  For him it was cancer.  For you it may be unemployment or loneliness or straying children or financial worries or a relational rupture.  This is when Jesus, the hope of heaven, steps into our hurts.  Lamentations 3:25 says that the “Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.”  The key isn’t to hope for something; it’s to hope in Someone.  Not to hope for something from God but to hope in God.

Romans 5:4 tells us pain has a place in God’s plan because suffering gives us the opportunity to persevere and change our character so that we end up having hope that doesn’t disappoint.  Psalm 25:5: “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame…”

I love what David Henderson writes: “Despair comes when we believe what our eyes tell us: that when difficult circumstances play their hand, the game is over; there is no trump card, no other hand to be played.  Hold fast to hope means being unwilling to let circumstances have the last word.  Despair says circumstances tell us what is true about God.  Hope says God tells us what is true about circumstances” (Discipleship Journal, Issue #114).

3. Future glory. 

There’s also a future element to hope.  That reminds me of a scene where Lucy and Linus are sitting in front of the TV when Lucy says to Linus: “Get me a glass of water.”  Linus looks surprised and asks, “Why should I do anything for you?  You never do anything for me!”  To which Lucy promises: “On your 75th birthday I’ll bake you a cake.”  Linus gets up, heads toward the kitchen and says, “Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to.”  At least Linus had his blanket [hold up blanket].

Our senses scream that this is all there is – that life is the sum total of profession plus possessions, and death ends it all.  But this world is neither our home nor our hope.  The Bible says that those who are wrapped in a relationship with Jesus Christ have the hope of heaven; a confident assurance in God’s promises.  1 Corinthians 15:19: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  To hope means to wait.  Galatians 5:5 encourages us to hang in there: “By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.”  

It’s only as I place my hope in God am I freed from a compulsive pursuit of the next thing that I think will bring satisfaction to my soul.  Hope then can help me through tragedy or triumph.  Did you know that Jesus is coming again?  He came at Christmas the first time but the Bible says that He’s coming back.  When the Scripture writers describe this event, they often link it to hope.  Check out Titus 2:13: “While we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Decisions for Hope

A couple weeks ago, a government official gave out a phone number for homeowners worried about rising mortgage payments: “The best you can do for your family is to call 1-800-995-HOPE.”  The only problem was that this was not correct.  Instead of an 800 number it was an 888 number.  Most everyone wants a little hope in their life but some of us think that we’ve been given a wrong number.  Friends, I want to give you the right number this morning.

If you want to make your “hope rope” stronger, there are at least three decisions you need to make.  If you want to cope then hold on to the rope of hope and wrap yourself in these three numbers.

#1: Get wrapped up in Scripture. 

Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  I just talked to someone this week who told me that the older he gets the more he finds comfort not in situations, but in Scripture.  This verse tells us that we can hold on to hope because the Bible helps us endure through problems and gives us encouragement through its promises.  We’d love to have you join us for our Old Testament journey that we’re taking beginning in January on Sunday mornings.  I think you’ll find it interesting, informative and encouraging.

#2: Get wrapped up in the Savior. 

The way to have hope is to have the Holy One in your life

Jesus is Savior.  In fact, that’s what His name means.  Matthew 1:21 says that Joseph was to call him Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.”  We are sinners in need of the Savior.  The way to have hope is to have the Holy One in your life as Colossians 1:27 says: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  And, as the children reminded us earlier: He is an indescribable gift!

The first part of John 1:14 says that the “Word became flesh…” This is the single, most unique quality of Christianity that makes it different from any other religion: God became flesh at Christmas.  Jesus is the visible word of God.  Theologians call this truth the Incarnation.  The infinite second person of the Trinity, who created all things according to John 1:1, became a soft baby.  The collision of deity and humanity had its full expression in Jesus when the Infinite became an Infant.  What Gabe explained to Hope about the ants is exactly right.  God became one of us in order to get a message of hope to us.

The Message paraphrase renders it this way: “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” For 33 years God moved into our neighborhood. The NIV says that Jesus “made his dwelling among us,” which literally means, “to make one’s tent.”  When we would camp at campsites growing up, we would always get to know the other campers around us.  In fact, it’s difficult to be private when you’re camping.  Everyone can see what you’re doing.  To say that Jesus pitched a tent implies that He wants to be on familiar terms with us.  He wants to be close.  He wants a lot of interaction.  He wants to wrap a blanket around us.

Did you hear about the father and his three children who were lost in the mountains of California for three days this week?  Their story of survival is amazing.  They were found because they used tree branches to spell out the word “help” in the snow.  When asked how he survived, the father had a two word answer: “Jesus Christ.”  I don’t know if you saw the pictures after they were rescued but they show two of the kids being wrapped in a blanket, much like this one [hold up blanket].

#3: Get wrapped up in salvation. 

Over eight years ago, someone gave us a 1990 Acura.  This car has been wonderful for our family.  I drove it for many years and then our oldest daughter drove it for several years and now our middle daughter  has been driving it.  Since the car is so old, I just hope that it will keep running because it has almost 200,000 miles on it.  

The sun roof leaks so I used some caulk to seal it up.  There’s no air conditioning, which is fine this time of year.  The antenna is broken so the radio doesn’t work.  We’ve become accustomed to the lights of different gauges lighting up like a Christmas tree – system check, antilock brakes, and the check engine light all come on.  It’s quite festive.  About two weeks ago another pretty light appeared. This one was red and had a picture of a battery on it.  When my daughter asked me about it, I told her to just ignore it and enjoy the dashboard light show.

That was a bad move.  This past Tuesday my daughter was driving to school down Elm Street, the car died right in the middle of traffic.  I felt terrible because by choosing to ignore a warning light I had put my daughter in danger.

Do you ever ignore the gauges in your life?  Do you have any warning lights flashing?   The drama we watched this morning was funny in parts but maybe you saw something that is really a warning to you.  Is Christmas really about baking or shopping or sports or drinking or hopelessness?

God might be trying to get your attention.  Maybe you’re at a place where you now realize that it’s time to hold on to the rope of hope because you don’t know how to cope.  Perhaps the little brochure in your bulletin called, “Hope for the New Year” will be helpful to you.

  • Admit your sinfulness.  Ephesians 2:12 says that those who don’t have heaven’s child in their life are without hope and without God.  1 Chronicles 29:15 says that “…our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.”   It’s important to admit your hopelessness apart from Christ and to own your sinfulness.    
  • Ask for help.  In a similar way, the hope of heaven, Immanuel who is Jesus, came to take away our junk.  The Savior came to save us from our sins but this is not automatic.  We must ask Him to do so.  If you want hope you must cry out for help.  He gives hope to those who have first humbled themselves enough to ask for help.
  • Accept Christ as your Savior.  When the angel made his announcement to the shepherds he personalized the proclamation in Luke 2:11: Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”   Another definition of hope is “to trust.”  It’s time to trust Christ today because he has been born to you.  If you need some hope to help you cope than you must receive the Holy One.  I heard someone say these words that are so true: Life with Christ is an endless hope; life without Christ is a hopeless end.

Hebrews 6:19 refers to this hope as an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  In order to help you hold on to hope in the midst of your hurts, we have a free copy of a book called, “Anchor for the Soul” for all our guests this morning.  Please pick one up on your way out as our gift to you.

We don’t know what life will hold in 2008 but we can know the One who holds us; the one who lovingly wraps his blanket of love around us.  Do you want to know Him right now?  Traditionally, Christmas is looked at as the moment time changed.  It’s when B.C. became A.D.  Today can be the day that you change as well by making Christmas personal.

If you’re ready you can do so right now, today by praying this prayer with me.  Feel free to just say it silently if you’re prepared to do so:  Jesus, I admit that not only do I have little hope but I have a lot of garbage in my life.  I own my own sinfulness and recognize that you desire to wrap yourself around me today.  I want you to be my Savior.  Please save me from my sins.  I need your help.  Thank you for coming to our world on Christmas.   And then for dying in my place on the cross to forgive me for my sins and to give me the hope of heaven.  I believe and I receive you into my life.  I accept your free gift of salvation.  If there’s anything in my life that needs to change please change me.”

Friend, if you want to experience hope, then you must welcome Him to your world.  Allow Him to wrap Himself around you so that when you don’t know how to cope you can hold on to the rope of hope.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking

How we need to hear from God

You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting

Welcome Holy Child

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?