12/16/18

The Thrill of Hope

…it is impossible for God to lie...  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:18-19)

 

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”

 

In Placide Cappeau’s great Christmas hymn O Holy Night, he writes the words: “The thrill of hope, a weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...”  Oh yes, the Jewish world Jesus came into was weary… of Roman occupation… religious oppression… of waiting for God’s Messiah promise to be fulfilled.  What makes us weary these days?  Mall traffic?  Waiting in checkout lines?  Being sick?  Stresses of the holidays?  Hmmm, how about the wickedness of the world?  The weariness of wondering when life is going to be worth living? Waiting to see if God really cares about us?

Do you remember what it was like as a child to wait through the seemingly endless days before Christmas when the clock’s hands seemed to be moving through concrete?  In a way, the waiting and hope for and expecting that begged-for present made Christmas Christmas.

 

If you can capture that, you’ve captured what made that long-ago night – that “holy night when Christ was born” – so extraordinary.  For more than a hundred generations humanity had been waiting anxiously for God to fulfill a promise He had made: to give the world of men and women a Savior.  One generation after another looked for Him but never saw Him come.  Each generation in time came to wonder, "Will God really come through?"

 

Oscar Wilde wrote a depressing line about people he saw struggling their way through life: “Something is dead in each of them, and what is dead is hope.”

 

We don’t use the word advent but the religious world about us does in this time of year.  Advent comes from a Lat. word adventus meaning “coming” or “arrival.”  It refers to the four week before Christmas, with the “Advent” being the long-awaited arrival of Jesus Christ who entered our world as every human baby enters the world 2,000 years ago, born of a Galilean peasant girl named Mary.  Advent – Christmas – calls to mind man’s desperate need for and God’s gracious gift of hope and rescue in Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the greatest of the many wonders of Christmas is that Jesus is still being born into human hearts.  Some have known Him a long time but now are reminded and see Him more clearly; they resolve to serve Him with more love and commitment.  Some are only starting the journey of knowing Him, but they start it with joy and a hope that only God can bring to bless a life and make it of worth to both God and man.  Really, it’s what we have a chance to do every day, more pronounced at Christmas, to pause and reflect on God’s love, letting our soul feel its worth, and thrill with hope that is faith’s hope awaiting new and glorious mornings Jesus will bring.  And what is faith?  Faith is being sure of what we hope for… sure of what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1 NIRV)… Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the assurance of things not seen (KJV).

 

The thrill of hope in Bethlehem’s babe offers us God-solid “substance” (see Hebrews 11:1) of a Rescuer (Savior).  Isaiah predicted Jesus’ character as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” (see Isaiah 9:1-10).  To have One come into the world to bless us as only one of those would be amazing, to have One come to bless us in all four ways is Divine!

 

Jesus promises us “the thrill of hope.”  Hope always thrills!  It warms us inside and makes us smile.  When someone say’s “hope,” we think of better times ahead.  There is life beyond today!  Blessed life!  Eternal life!

“Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn” is a line filled with hope!  Jesus ends our weariness.  We wonder no more if our soul has worth…   Our “yonder” doesn’t have to look forward; we can look back.

O Holy Night contains more than praise, it contains a prescription from the Great Physician… some marching orders to follow. 

Hear… “Truly he taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace” – we are to give each other the love and peace He brought us.

Hear… “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease” – we’re called to show others their soul’s worth, so they can enjoy the same blessings of freedom and justice we enjoy. 

Hear… “Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name” – we’re called to humbly bow in praise to God everywhere, all the days of our life because of what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. 

On that night in Bethlehem, God’s salvation came to us.  At Christmas, 2018, with Christ securely born in us, we must help Him be born to the world around us.

Has our world ever been in need more than now for a transfusion of hope?  More in need of love and peace?  A large portion of the world’s people are crushed with war, shackled by disease and loneliness, oppressed by greed working, or some evil quest for power.  Most of our neighbors have no idea they’re held in bondage by Satan’s schemes.  We must sing “Good News” songs to them… give them “the thrill of hope…” tell them they can move away from hope’s “outskirts” and into the great House of God, trumpet to them “Christ is the Lord!” and tell them of God’s “new and glorious morn!” 

Christmas is one of God’s great sunrises of hope, resurrection morning the other.  Illnesses may remain but don't seem nearly so final, fears lose their grip, grief for those who have gone on can turn into rejoicing, desire to press on in spite of obstacles can be refueled, and differences of opinion can be eclipsed by our belief together in Jesus.  And we join the throngs of saints down through the centuries who have always heard the angel’s voice: "Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy… to you a Savior has been born who is Messiah, the Lord…"

 

Every year at Christmas – and every day before and after – Jesus is born again in every true believer’s heart!  May “the thrill of hope” in Jesus rise in all of us as we see again God's enduring faithfulness.

 

Isaiah wrote 750 years before the star and Bethlehem:

 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you. (Isaiah 60:1-2)