This Christmas message is sponsored by the letters:
I know it sounds strange.
With a recent shooting in an elementary school, a growing national socialism, runaway debt, a fiscal “cliff,” and double-digit unemployment, you would think this year’s message would be…
But we tend to disagree.
This year, we have been blessed to see 3 children into a greater understanding that they are loved. Faith is 7 and serves as our resident expert-on-all-things and is becoming a budding ballerina. Jack is 5 and is becoming our math whiz and no-training-wheels mountain biking hero. And Dean is 4 and has turned into our resident hugger and Guinea Pig antagonist.
We have heard them ask increasingly detailed questions about God, how he became a man, what heaven will be like, and how Noah was able to squeeze all those animals on that boat.
We’ve seen them hug retirees in an otherwise abandoned veteran’s home; collect lizards, spiders, and snails to find out exactly what kind of detail God created; and learn how to count to 100…without notes.
One look in their eyes and you see hope – the conviction of things unseen – the belief that life will be better and even more fun when they wake up tomorrow.
Seriously, would we do without hope?
Not the here-today-gone-tomorrow lottery ticket kind of hope, but the real-life things-can-change kind of hope. The kind of hope that hopes in a God who comes through for his people – every time.
We don’t know about you, but 2012 was a tough year for us. Like most families, finances were tight, life was moving too fast, and it seemed that everything we did took twice as long and worked half as well.
Can you relate?
But through the tough times, as a family, we have had this lingering hope that things can change…that things will change. And that hope is planted firmly in the simple belief that when you experience pain, eventually God comes through and changes everything. That he fights for you and he fights with you. That when you are struggling, God struggles with you. And when you fight alongside of him, he fights alongside of you and together you win.
It’s a very encouraging thought.
Here is a Biblical example of what we are talking about…
Abraham was a guy just like us. He had his doubts, failures, struggles, and sin. He had to wake up every morning grasping for a reason to live another day. He had relationship issues, business disputes, and sleepless nights. And, for some strange reason, the Bible uses Abraham as an example.
Let’s see what the book of Romans says about the Father of our Faith…
“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:18-22 ESV)
Ok, now here is the interesting thing. God speaks very highly of Abraham. It actually makes you feel like you are small beans compared to Abraham. But you need to know that (just like us) Abraham actually did some very bad stuff even after he professed faith in God. He lied about his wife (a couple of times), he failed to fight for his family, he laughed in God’s face, and to make maters really worse, he had illicit sex with his servant Hagar.
But despite all of the bad stuff, God commended Abraham because he “believed against hope” in the God who saves. At the exact moment Abraham did that, God took away all of his sin, failure, and purposelessness and exchanged them for righteousness, success, and purpose.
Abraham didn’t deserve any of that.
And neither do we.
It’s not even the point.
The point is that Christ died so that we might have hope.
– Hope in a brighter future (in heaven as well as here on earth).
– Hope for a better income.
– Hope for stronger relationships.
– Hope for children to grow to love Him and serve him well
– Hope for more peace, rest, and joy.
Hope beyond all hope. Hope against all hope. The kind of hope that makes you bolt out of bed in the morning ready for anything.
Our daughter Faith is a 7-year old night owl. We are not kidding when we say that she often goes to bed after us. We tell her to go back to bed, but she just can’t fall asleep. She really can’t.
The problem with night owls is that they don’t wake up very well. And so on most mornings, we have to drag her out of bed with a crane.
But not every morning.
There are a few days that waking up is not a problem for Faith, specifically: the morning we go to Disneyland, Christmas morning, and her birthday morning. On those days, she bolts out of bed like she was shot out of a cannon.
That’s the kind of hope we as a family think we as Christians can live with every day…of every week…of every year. That’s because that kind of hope is not based in anything you have done or will do. It’s based in the fact that Christ did everything very well, and so now you can too. It’s based in the fact that your God is going to take you to Disneyland (or at least the spiritual equivalent of Disneyland: the new heavens and the new earth). It’s based in the fact that as a believer, every day is your birthday…and your Father is going to lavish rich presents on you (again and again) for no other reason then that he loves you…a lot. It’s based on the fact, because you are a friend of God, every day is Christmas…and God knows how to give good gifts to his children.
So as you celebrate Christmas this year, take a short mental break from the roast, the wrapping paper, and the fudge to remember a God who reached down from heaven to bring…