By Rev. John Dunnett
Hope is essential to the Christmas season. For many of us, our earliest memories are of the things we hoped were waiting under the tree.
As we have aged and become more globally aware we have songs of hope for peace and prosperity for all humanity. Yes, hope is essential to the message of Christmas.
This season is the story of the birth of Jesus who is Immanuel (God with us). His birth was announced with the words of “peace on Earth and good will to mankind” (Luke 2:14). Matthew’s gospel records that Jesus in the one who’s name is the hope of the whole world (Matthew 12:21).
Have you ever noticed how Christmas carols speak of hope; “The thrill of hope,” “ the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Then there is the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem written in the heat of the American Civil War. “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” This song reflects the hope of the ancient story, the despair of his current circumstances and yet the hope that is still to be found in the Christmas story.
Hope is an important part of the Christmas story and it is becoming a valued commodity as we continue into the unknown of the 21st century. As we are now almost 18 years into the 21st century, it is becoming readily apparent that hope will be a valued commodity that allows people to thrive in the years ahead.
From 2014 to 2017 the Hope & Optimism project invested $2,000,000 in studies to identify ways to help produce hopeful people in childhood, parenthood, relationships and end of life.
A good working definition of hope is “an optimistic trusting step into the unknown.”
Business looks for those who can live with this creative courage called hope. Educators have tried to facilitate this energy of hope in the lives of their students. Couples forge a new identity in marriage bravely stepping together into the unknown. They welcome children into this world with an optimistic trusting step into the unknown. People face the uncertainty of the end of life and need hope. Somehow we know that this hopeful into the unknown of the future is important to us in all aspects of life.
As a Christ follower, my hope is an act of optimistically trusting in the person, the promises and the spirit of Jesus as I step into the unknown of each day. While hope is a valued commodity, who I hope in is even more important to me. I live with hope because of that baby born centuries ago. I live with hope because God became one with us so that we can live in oneness with Him.
This Advent at our church we will look at four key individuals in the progression of History as God prepared for the arrival of Immanuel (God with us). Each reveals an important place where we need hope in our lives today. We are exploring hope in the lives of Abraham, David, Jeremiah and Joseph.
These men are key as they are highlighted in Matthew 1:17 where God calls Matthew to summarize the past and point to the one who was coming and who’s name would be the hope of all the world (Matthew 12:21).
This Christmas I wish you hope for 2019. I hope that you become very aware of the deep meaning of the Christmas story. I want to encourage you to consider optimistically trusting in Jesus as you step into the unknown of the year to come.
Rev. John Dunnett is pastor of First Baptist Church in New Glasgow and a regular contributor to Faith for Today.