I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: Madison Avenue hasn’t been able to commercialize it the way they do most holidays. At its core there is one idea: Give thanks – and when it comes right down to it, that thanks is directed to God. In the fall of 1621, after a difficult year of hunger and sickness, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. As they gave thanks to God, His goodness gave them hope for the year to come.
It’s still true today: As we enjoy a turkey dinner with stuffing, potatoes and gravy, vegetables, cornbread, and pumpkin pie, we also get a helping of hope. That’s because when we give thanks to God for His goodness, it takes our eyes off our problems and puts them on the solution to all our problems. And focusing on God gives us a glimmer of hope for the future.
In contrast to Thanksgiving, no holiday has been more commercialized than Christmas. Santa, lights, trees, reindeer, elves, gifts, TV specials, movies – while many people may remember that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, most don’t think of what difference it makes. But at the heart of the Christmas story is a message of hope. “Unto us a child is born” marked the birth of hope, as the angels announced to the shepherds, for “peace on earth”!
This year, as we farewell Thanksgiving and prepare for Christmas, I’d like to have a ‘second helping’ of hope. I won’t ruin your holiday with a lengthy list of our problems. Instead I’ll just summarize: We’re adrift in a sea of divisiveness, depravity, deceit, disease, and death. If we’ve ever needed hope, we do today. And when it’s darkest, that’s when a little light shines.
Romans 8.24-25 remind Christians that in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. What we see today is pretty close to hopeless; what we see when we look back 2000 years, and forward to Christ’s return, is filled with hope!
This Christmas I am hopeful. The gift of Christmas is God’s Son, and because of His death and resurrection, the gift of God is eternal life to all who believe in Him. Sin has separated mankind from our Creator, and on our own, nothing we can do can restore that broken relationship. But the God who heals sent His Son to take away our sin, and when sin is forgiven, the hope of new life, and eternal life, is a reality. Ephesians 2.20-21 summarizes it well:
“…you were at that time separate from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Now that is a message of hope. So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we wince at the encroaching spiritual darkness in the world, have a ‘second helping of hope.’ And pass it on to someone else.