Our hope is not in open-mindedness or a new way of thinking. And our hope is not in a forthcoming vaccine. Our hope lies in what only Christ and His coming to earth brought to us.
It’s been a long year. Jokes abound in comparing 2020 to the worst year ever.
If 2020 were a haircut, it would be a mullet. And if 2020 were a baby food, it would be Lutefisk flavor (ugh).
In spite of a pandemic, political divisiveness and racial tensions at an all-time high, demilitarized zones across the U.S., unprecedented hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, what could possibly be worse?
Yet because Psalm 118:24 tells us “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (ESV), I believe we must also say “This is the year the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be thankful for it, too.”
Aside from obeying God’s command to be thankful in all things (1 Thess. 5:18), how can 2020 bring any hope at all?
Our hope is not in a new year around the corner. Our hope is not in a new presidential administration (or keeping the current one). Our hope is not in new policies or protective mandates. Our hope is not in open-mindedness or a new way of thinking. And our hope is not in a forthcoming vaccine.
Our hope lies in what only Christ and His coming to earth brought to us. Here is the hope for 2020 that only Christ and Christmas can bring:
1. We Have a God Who Understands
God came to earth in the form of a baby to walk this soil, understand our hurts, and show us it’s possible to live a life on earth amidst our suffering in complete faith, obedience, and dependence on our Creator God.
Hebrews 4:15 says in Jesus we have a high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses and “One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin” (NASB).
Jesus understands physical suffering, misunderstanding, emotional letdown, betrayal by those closest to Him, temptation to sin, and everything we will ever encounter on this earth.
Therefore, our hope is in the One who ultimately has gone before us, and who can help us in whatever we’ve gone through and whatever lies ahead.
2. We Can Experience True Peace
When Jesus was born the angels proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). Jesus’ birth brought peace–not that wars ceased or there was sudden international political unity. We were, instead, given a peace that passes all understanding because we can know, personally, the One who IS peace.
Before leaving this earth to die on a cross for the sins of all who would put their faith and trust in Him, Jesus said, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful” (John 14:27, NASB).
Jesus’ peace entered the earth when He came and He left His peace here on earth, through His Holy Spirit that indwells the hearts of those who have put their trust in Him. Only Christ can bring that peace. And Christmas reminds us of it.
How do we find that peace? Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (NLT).
3. We Can Model God’s Contagious Love
When God came to earth in the form of a baby we got a visible, tangible demonstration of what God’s love for us looks like. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son (that’s Christmas), so that everyone who believes in Him (and His death and resurrection--that’s Easter) will not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17, NASB). That was sacrificial love.
Furthermore, Jesus aid the greatest commandment was not that we do certain things or refrain from certain habits but that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV).
Jesus repeated that second command in John 13:34-35 when He told His followers, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another” (NASB).
Jesus is the true reconciler of all people and all things. As we remember why our Savior came – to not only die for our sins, but to bring peace and to show us how to love one another--and we extend that love toward others, regardless of their opinion, values, beliefs, or lifestyle, we show the world a glimpse of the love of God. Only that love can heal any wound and dissolve any divisiveness.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Gyro
4. We Can Be Saved and Experience the Hope of Heaven
In a world of uncertainty, confusion, and strife, we can often feel we are not making the mark. In a world in which we must work for everything we have, God demonstrated to us that there was nothing we could do to save ourselves, but rely on the grace of God and exercise faith in His Son who sacrificed Himself on our behalf to become our ransom for sin.
There is no greater joy, peace, or hope than knowing, without a doubt, that we are saved into His family (Romans 8:15), and will live securely in heaven with Him eternally. Jesus assured us in John 8:32: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And in 1 John 5:13 we can be assured of our hope in heaven because the Apostle John wrote: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
You no longer have to guess or gamble on being “good enough” for God. You have only to admit you can never be good enough on your own and that Christ was sufficient as the pure and obedient sacrifice that was needed to atone for your sins.
With that assurance, you can spend the rest of your days on earth praising Him, serving Him, obeying Him out of love for what He did for you. Rejoice, believer! Salvation is here… through the birth, death and resurrection of God’s only Son.
Read Ephesians 1 and realize all that is yours in Christ Jesus. In a year in which it seems everything has gone wrong, there is hope knowing you have a rich inheritance and an eternal heavenly home.
5. We Can Display Joy to the World
At this time of year, we sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” How can you help spread “joy to the world” this Christmas? By keeping your hope in God, not in what you’re hoping God will do for you.
By keeping your eyes on Jesus, not on politics or policies. By trusting in Your Healer--physically and spiritually. As you do this, you can’t help but spread the joy.
Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! Lord, they walk in the light of Your face” (NASB, emphasis added). Our joyful sound is that the Lord has come!
It is the sound of ringing bells by the Salvation Army volunteers reminding us we were given a Savior long ago. It is the sound of a newborn babe crying, reminding us that life goes on. It is the sound of your salvation in the laugher around your tree or the prayers around your dinner table.
Rejoice in the hope that is yours this Christmas. And remember that 2021 will also be a year that the Lord has made, and we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kevron2001
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, and When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.