Finding Your Way Home: Restoration of Hope
It is now December. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas
is quickly approaching. Quite frankly, I am reluctant to emphasize a Christmas
theme here in my pastor’s column. It is not that I do not like Christmas; I
love Christmas, every part of it. My reluctance is because at this time of the
year we are all inundated with TV commercials, decorations, presents, trees,
music, movies, cards, letters, and get-togethers. We tend to lose the
significance of Christmas in the overload of the season. Let’s take a step back
and simply allow the simple message of Christmas to encourage our hearts.
Whatever else Christmas might be, it is fundamentally a
demonstration beyond all doubt, that God keeps His Word. He promised He would
come…and He came. On that cold night in Bethlehem in a far corner of the Roman
Empire, Jesus Christ the Son of God, was miraculously born. Just at a time when
the nation of Israel had given up hope, Christ stepped out of eternity into
time through the Incarnation. He said he would come, and He did.
In the beautiful Christmas hymn O Holy Night, the song writer expressed the message of the
Incarnation this way:
Christmas is fundamentally the restoration of our hope. For
many of us it has been a long time since our hearts have felt a thrill of hope.In Scripture, according to the Hebrew and
Greek words translated by the word “hope”
and according to the biblical
usage, hope is an indication of
certainty. “Hope” in Scripture
means “a strong and confident expectation.” Hope in the New Testament is a confident
assurance in what God has promised to do on our behalf in Christ. Wouldn’t it
be wonderful, if this Christmas, we allowed the Christ to restore our hope?
James Dobson once related a story of an elderly woman named Stella who was
struggling with her first Christmas alone. Her husband had died just a few
months prior through cancer. Now, several days before Christmas, she felt
terribly alone. Her loneliness was so great she decided she was not going to
decorate for Christmas.
Late that afternoon the doorbell rang, and there was a delivery boy with a
box. He said, "Would you sign
here?" She invited him to step inside and closed the door to get away from
the cold. She signed the paper and said, "What's in the box?" The
young man laughed and opened up the flap, and inside was a little puppy, a
golden Labrador retriever. The delivery boy picked up the squirming pup and
explained, "This is for you, Ma'am. He's six weeks old, completely housebroken."
The young puppy began to wiggle in happiness at being released from captivity.
"Who sent this?" Stella asked. The young man set the animal down
and handed her an envelope and said, "It's all explained here in this
envelope, Ma'am. The dog was bought last July while its mother was still
pregnant. It was meant to be a Christmas gift to you." The young man then
handed her a book, How to Care for Your Labrador Retriever.
In desperation she again asked, "Who sent me this puppy?" As the
young man turned to leave, he said, "Your husband, Ma'am. Merry
Christmas." She opened up the letter from her husband. He had written it
three weeks before he died and left it with the kennel owners to be delivered
with the puppy as his last Christmas gift to her. The letter was full of love
and encouragement and admonishments to be strong. He vowed that he was waiting
for the day when she would join him. He had sent her this young animal to keep
her company until then.
She wiped away the tears, put the letter down, and then remembering the
puppy at her feet, she picked up that golden furry ball and held it to her
neck. Then she looked out the window at the lights that outlined the neighbor's
house, and she heard on the radio in the kitchen the strains of "Joy to
the World, the Lord has Come." Suddenly Stella felt the most amazing
sensation of hope washing over her. Her heart felt a joy and a wonder greater
than the grief and loneliness.
"Little fella," she said to the dog, "There's a box down in
the basement I'll bet you'd like. It's got a little Christmas tree in it and
some decorations and some lights that are going to impress you. And there's a
manger scene down there. Let's go get it."
Boothe Luce, wife of the publisher of Lifeand Time Magazines, once said “There
are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about
them.” It is my prayer that each of us would allow the Incomparable
Christ of Christmas to restore our hope this year.
Dr. Andy Buckley