We have again come to that time of year where people are looking forward to summer, Christmas, and the new year. We are eagerly anticipating this year closing and nurturing the hope that the fresh new year will be better than this one has been.
There’s nothing that really differentiates the end of the year from any other time but we cling to the idea of the possibility of a fresh start because as people we not only need hope but the desire for it is built into our DNA.
We are built for hope
In the gravest situations you can find people holding on and expecting things to improve, why? It’s because of our inbuilt sense of hope, this sense of hope is what keeps soldiers going while in concentration camps, sick people going while in hospital, entrepreneurs going when their inventions don’t work out, and countless other things.
The loss of hope is the most serious thing that can happen to a person, when a person loses hope they give up on life and that has devastating consequences for everyone around them.
We cannot function without hope, without the possibility that the next relationship might work out, without the possibility that our next novel might be published, our next year might be better than our last, we would just give up.
Imagine a world where no one had hope – it would be a far cry from the world we live in today – imperfect as it is, we are hard-wired by our creator to have hope.
Disasters highlight our need for hope
We become particularly aware of our need for hope when times are tough. When things are going well our approach to hope is a lot more casual, it is less of a deep-seated, unquenched, longing that is at forefront of our mind and more just a pleasant idea.
Hope is like a spring of pure water, to a person who has become lost in a desert with the hot sun blazing down upon them and sand as far the eye can see finding water is all that is on their mind and when they find it they are filled with joy and overwhelmed with gratitude.
However, if a person who was simply out for a pleasant walk with friends came across the same spring of pure water, they would think it was nice and possibly take a drink from it but it would not capture their heart and fill their mind the same way it would in the other situation.
Likewise, hope is all the more precious when we are suffering, when we are sick, or imprisoned, or crushed under a seemingly unending string of unfortunate circumstances, we cherish hope and the idea that things can get better and when they do, it overwhelms us with joy and thanksgiving.
Yet no matter how good it is to be released from a prisoner of war camp, recover from a disease, find the person you wish to marry, start a successful business or become famous, none of these things will provide us with the ultimate hope we all need.
Christmas provides the greater hope
The hope of a loving relationship, a meaningful job, a healthy body, or financial freedom, these things whilst good fall short of the mark to provide us with permanent and concrete hope that will last not only throughout this life but through death as well.
Wonderfully we have a hope that is greater than ourselves, greater this world, and even greater than death! This hope was foretold and promised for thousands of years and came to earth in the form of a baby born in a manger.
Jesus’ birth is the culmination of all the hope of the Old Testament – the longing and waiting and trusting and hoping for one who would come and set all things right, free his people from sin and death and bondage to decay and bring in God’s kingdom.
Christmas brings the ultimate hope because of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection which give us a sure and certain hope that this life is not all there is, it provides a solution for our problem of sin and provides us with the hope of eternal life!
Christian hope is built on the sure and certain foundation of God’s promises and frees us to dedicate our lives to following God and doing his wonderful will.
As C.S. Lewis said “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
We all need hope and Christmas provides us with a greater hope – one that will not just be temporary or only last while we’re on earth but one that will sustain us throughout this life and into eternity – a hope not based on personal successes but on the amazing work of God bringing salvation to us in the form a tiny baby born amongst animals and laid in a manger.
No matter what the next year brings we can have hope because of Christmas, because Jesus was born and conquered death and will again return to once and for all set everything right and gather his people to be with him and enjoy him forever!
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.