Christmas is just a few days away. It seems to have come quickly this year. Have you got everything in order yet? Have you put up all the decorations and the lights? And what about the gifts?
If you could have anything you wanted for Christmas, what would you choose? After all, Christmas used to be all about gift-giving but these days it’s become all about gift-getting. The television says “It is a season for wishes to come true.”
Some of us do want things this Christmas. Our list is filled with toys and clothes, cars and boats, trips and jewellery. I’d like a new Mercedes and a new boat and a cruise to some place I’ve never visited before – if you are asking. Just email me to make sure you have the right address, if you are planning to send them to me!
What we really want.
Most of us, however, want serious things. Some want health. More than anything else we want a cure for our illness or the illness of someone near to us. Some people say health is so important – “If you have your health you have everything.”
Some of us want relationships restored. Reconciliation of a once wonderful marriage that turned into separation and floods of angry words. Or maybe reconnection between those who have broken apart – parents & children; once best friends; brothers & sisters; neighbours and co-workers.
Some of us want meaning in their life. Something that makes us feel we can make a difference in the world.
Then there are those who’ve quit dreaming about what could be, because they had too many disappointments and too many dreams unfulfilled. Others have dreams but can’t get to them because something or someone repeatedly block your path.
There is a verse in the bible that speaks about this disappointment…
Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick… (NIV) So it is literally speaking about unrelenting disappointment & says it makes your heart sick but then it says: But when the desire comes it is a tree of life.
Now hope is a combination of desire and anticipation. We desire good things & hope for them to happen. Since the bible says God is a God of hope, then he is a God of desire & anticipation.
But its like there is a battle going on in your life for your hope. It’s a battle between the God of hope & Satan who is described as a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy. Whether you believe in a literal devil or not, life conspires against you and attacks your future and your hope. We all know the common thieves of hope – circumstances; disappointment; disease; poverty and death. These situations of life leave us powerless and feeling hopeless & if that happens for long enough, it does make your heart sick.
Desperate People do Desperate Things
Ever seen the movie John Q? Someone said “it was the best movie of 2002”. It’s about a man whose son needs some hospital treatment & he can’t afford it so in desperation he takes the hospital hostage. Desperate people do desperate things.
And when a person is facing unrelenting disappointment and hope is deferred, they sometimes do desperate things. They often make stupid choices & take foolish actions. Because all they can see in front of them is hopelessness. Hopelessness is when you get to the point where you accept the inevitability of the future without what you were hoping for and when you believe your dream has become impossible.
The Direction of Hope.
Maybe you started out with such hope but you began to see disappointment & over time that turned into more & more disappointment & disappointment became unrelenting. And so you moved from hope to disappointment then you moved to despondency then despair then to desperation and ended up feeling hopeless. And today you feel there is no hope.
Curiously, life takes people in one direction – from hope to disappointment to despair but God promises to take us in the opposite direction! So at the point where the world would say “accept your lot, give up on those dreams,” if you believe in the God of the bible, you can move from despair to hope again. And when your trust is in God then the bible says hope will not disappoint.
But Nothing is Impossible…
In the Christmas story, the angel was talking to Mary and in Luke 1:37 and he says “to God nothing is impossible. “ If that is true, God can meet you at the place of disappointment, and bring about real hope and expectation. So God is a God of the possible.
One part of the Christmas story, is about an old bloke who held onto hope through difficult times. The bible says Simeon was a righteous & devout man who lived by faith. It wasn’t easy to live by faith when his country was occupied by an enemy army. It wasn’t easy to believe in a coming Messiah when there were doubts & differences even among his fellow Jews. But he held onto the hope that one day he would see the Messiah, regardless of what the world around him believed.
This part of the Christmas story is seldom read or remembered…
Luke 2:25-38 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (NIV)
You see hope anticipates a good future regardless of the current circumstances. Hope is always about tomorrow.
Simeon saw and experienced the pain in his nation. For years he yearned for relief. The bible says he was waiting for “consolation.” Which means means comfort or relief. So Simon was waiting for his nation to turn the corner. There was no obvious way to escape the cruel Roman rule – many had tried with disastrous results. It must have seemed like an endless trap. But Simeon saw a path to tomorrow through a Messiah from God. His dream was to live long enough to see this Messiah come to Israel. He held onto hope & that is how he survived. And hope did not disappoint Simeon.
If life is easy and all our dreams have come true, we don’t need hope. But most of us struggle with pains, problems and uncertainty. We wonder how to survive today & thrive tomorrow. We need to find some path out of the mess we are in. We need a way out of hopelessness. We all need hope that anticipates good things to come.
Its Not About Wishful Thinking.
But wishful thinking will never cut it! Hope must come from God. You must find the hope he offers you, rather than making things up. Hope without God, is merely wishful thinking and often little more than self-delusion.
Just because we “dream about a white Christmas” or “Wish for Peace” or “Want money” doesn’t mean any of it will happen. But real hope is different. Real hope comes from God, not fantasy. Simeon’s hope came from the Holy Spirit. Somewhere in the past he had an encounter with God, and that generated a hope in his life.
Hope Surprises Us
And sometimes hope surprises us. The bible says Joseph and Mary were surprised. “The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.” (Luke 2:33). After a virgin birth, army of angels singing to them, visiting shepherds and wise men and everything else they’d been through, you would think that Joseph and Mary would be surprise-proof. But, they weren’t! They were amazed at the words of an old bloke they met by chance one day & the predictions of what was to come. That’s the way hope in God works. He points us on a path to tomorrow but surprises us with twists & turns that no one would expect.
But It Takes Time.
Unfortunately in this fast paced world, I have to warn you that hope takes time. Hope’s outcomes are seldom quick. God took a lifetime, for the hopes of Simeon to come about. And sometimes the fulfilment of hope takes more than a lifetime! When mankind first did wrong things, God made a promise to restore us. But it took thousands of generations for that to happen.
When God gave the 10 Commandments He promised blessing on the nation when they obeyed & curses when they disobeyed. Yet they disobeyed for 900 years before God brought the punishment he had promised. So as we hope in God, our hope is not in the calendar or clock. We need to hang on to the idea that God will come through, no matter how long it takes.
Simeon probably did not live long enough to see the baby Jesus grow up. He did not witness his miracles or hear his teaching. He wasn’t around for his crucifixion or resurrection. But he waited in hope & lived long enough to see chapter 1 of God’s fulfilment of hope. In other words, God gave him even more to hope for in the future.
How to Revive Your Hope.
Of course everyone wants hope. But some have been injured enough to put their hope on the back burner. So the practical question is how do we find hope again? How do I find the path God has for me from here to tomorrow?
The bible tells us that God gives us hope. So maybe its time to get to know Him better. Ask Him to fill your life with hope and give you dreams that will come true.
So start with the bible itself. Find some promises from God and claim them for yourself. If you Google “Hope in the Bible” you should find plenty of promises since the word “hope” appears 159 times in NIV bible. And if you read every reference you might just discover the hope that was meant to come for you at Christmas. It will give you encouragement and hope that grows your soul.
Here are some suggestions:
Jeremiah 29:11-13 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (NIV)
Romans 15:13 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. (NIV)
Hope is always about the future. Hope is always about what we have not yet experienced. Real hope is always in what God will do.
So friends don’t give up easily. Don’t surrender too soon. Don’t think that God has forgotten. Hold onto hope with the conviction that God will do good, no matter how long it takes.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™