Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hope Floats Eternal

And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

We talk a lot about faith and love, but hope is often squeezed in like a middle child: fully present, equally important, but often over looked until demanding to be noticed.

Anyone who has found himself between discouragement and despair knows how critical hope can be. Hope is what sustains us when we are holding on in faith, to a God of love, who hasn’t yet provided or revealed his plan.

I mentioned in my last entry how the last few months have been particularly tough for the construction business I run with my husband, but I know I’m not alone in security anxiety. I think of friends who have been laid off for months; others trying to keep their homes; and still others facing challenges that have turned their lives upside down.

These are the times when hope can bob on the surface of dark and muddy waters to give us something to hold onto. Hope buoys us when we feel like we’re sinking, gives us the energy to keep treading water, and reminds us that God knows exactly where we are and what we need.

Something I’ve started doing to focus on the positive is scanning the sea of my life for Hope Floats. These are the small or large buoys of encouragement I feel God sends my way to prop up my faith. A Hope Float might come as a call for a project estimate after the phone has been especially quiet; a client who is ecstatic about our work, or an idea that invigorates me with fresh enthusiasm and determination.

Even though Hope Floats offer positive possibilities, I must confess that some don’t float for long. Still, they allow me to hold on for a moment. And, I believe God uses even the ones that sink as part of a bigger picture.

It’s occurred to me that Christmas is really about hope, too. We have the benefit of knowing the whole story of how Jesus’ birth changed the world. But when he first came to earth, he was a bundle of hope: a hope that began with the prophets and was eventually planted in the heart of a young mother-to-be.

One of my most memorable Christmases was exactly 20 years ago when my son, Therren (TJ), was born on December 22. For the entire month, I intentionally focused on Mary to experience Christmas with fresh eyes.

I re-read the Christmas story as a pregnant woman, pondering what must have gone through Mary’s mind as our delivery times drew closer. From in utero kicks, to speculations about what the baby would be like, I considered all Mary would have experienced around the wonder, excitement and anticipation of what was about to happen.

There were some major differences, however, that made Mary’s Christmas story even more profound as I lived out mine. First, TJ was my fourth child, so I was very familiar with pregnancy and delivery. Jesus was to be her first born.

Second, my delivery was happening in the 20th Century. Kaiser was well equipped for my every need. Mary would deliver in a manger!

And third, while TJ has grown into a fantastic young man who brings great joy to my life, Jesus was the Son of the Living God!!

Mary couldn’t have understood all the ramifications of her Son’s birth, but she did understand that He was the hope of the Jews. A hope they had held onto for hundreds of years. He was the hope of salvation, the hope for a Kingdom restored, and the hope of a new day.

Now 2000 years later, we know that the hope in Jesus was not only for the Jews, but also for the entire world. Jesus was the hope of God’s promise to reconcile humanity to himself, and a plan fulfilled.

And that’s why we celebrate! God sent his Son in love, to offer hope, to all who would believe in him through faith.

Further, this is the same hope we can grasp to encourage our day to day lives, and the basis of our eternal hope in God.

Have a Hope-full and Merry Christmas!

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

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