’Tis the season of Advent – the celebration of the coming, the appearing of Jesus Christ. Advent consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Day. Traditionally, the Christian church has used the first two Sundays of Advent to anticipate the second coming of Christ and the last two Sundays to celebrate his first coming, as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
Different church traditions approach Advent in different ways, but I favor the approach of focusing on the four key messages of the Christmas story: hope, peace, joy, and love.
This year, we’re doing an Advent message series based on these themes…
The Christmas season seems to do two things in relationship to hope. It highlights and accentuates the hopefulness we can have when we follow Jesus, who came once and who is coming again. But this time of year also exposes the hopelessness that so many feel because of loneliness and losses.
It’s a tough time of year for a lot of people financially, with winter coming on and the days getting shorter. There’s less sunlight and therefore a little less energy and a little more sadness (seasonal affective disorder is a real thing caused by a decrease in exposure to natural light).
If you find yourself struggling emotionally at this time of year, you need to memorize this brief, powerful motto:
There is always, always hope.
I’ve suffered from mild depression off and on throughout the past decade. There have been plenty of moments when the negative thoughts have crept in. They can become overwhelming. One thing goes wrong and “everything” is wrong. One person offers criticism and “everyone” is against me.
I know those thoughts aren’t rational, but in the moment, they’re powerful. Even more powerful, however, is this truth… there is always, always hope.
There is always, always hope because my Creator is alive and well. He rules and reigns. While I may suffer for a season, his purposes will prevail.
There is always, always hope because Jesus died for my sins, offering me pardon for my crimes against my Creator and release from guilt and shame.
There is always, always hope because the Comforter, the Advocate, the Helper, the Holy Spirit has come alongside me in my walk with God, and he never leaves.
There is always, always hope because the Church advances forward, taking the Gospel to new places and attacking global giants together.
There is always, always hope because Jesus is coming again. He will reign forever in peace. All of our tears will be wiped away.
God loves you. He never gives up on you. He sees the best of you that you often can’t see for yourself. He knows what your future can be from his perspective. He paid for your freedom with the price of his own Son, Jesus. He knows you. He knows your pain and your problems and your potential.
Keep going. Keep loving. Keep reaching out. Keep hoping!
One of my favorite phrases in the Bible comes out of the story of Abraham’s desperate struggle to keep his faith in his old age while waiting to have a child. The Bible says, “Hoping in spite of hopeless circumstances, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations,” just as he had been told: ‘This is how many descendants you will have’” (Romans 4:18 ISV).
In spite of hopeless circumstances (which might be where you, too, might find yourself today), Abraham kept on hoping, believing that God would be true to his own good nature and his promises. And you, too, can count on that today!