Christmas 2011 has come…and gone. For my family we had the waiting and anticipation of Advent, worship on Christmas Eve, dinner and exchanging gifts with family. Then on Christmas day we had travel, dinner and exchanging gifts with a different branch of the family. The 26th brought travel back home and birthday cake and gifts for our youngest daughter. At home the Christmas gifts are being put away and the decorations are beginning to come down. At work some decorations are down. And this morning the streets in my neighborhood were lined with trash cans full, and over-filled, of the residue of Christmas gatherings. I don’t know for sure but it must be the busiest day of the year for those people who haul garbage for a living.
Now that the day of Christmas has come and gone what do we have left of that which we so anxiously waited for? That was the question in mind yesterday, which God answered as my wife and I began to read from 1 Timothy, which opens with:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,”
One thing we have today is hope, the particular kind of hope that is only known in Jesus. Christmas, as a day on the calendar, has passed and in virtually every way our world, and our daily lives look the same. We live with the same people, we work and play in the same places, our lives know joy and they know sorrow, they know success and struggle, they know peace and despair.
But those who know call in faith on Jesus as their Lord and Savior also know a sure and certain hope. In describing the certainty of God’s promises, the author of Hebrews writes in verses 19-20:
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Jesus has come and is with us, and he has also gone on before us as the priest who makes the perfect offering before God the Father on our behalf. He, alone, is the guarantee that we will receive the blessing that God promised for all who come to him through Jesus. This is the hope that Paul refers to as he writes to Timothy, and the hope that is ours as well.
On Christmas our young daughter opened a particular gift. As she took the contents from the box the primary emotion she showed us was unfettered joy. In the box were about six costumes, of the variety that fuel the active imaginations of young girls. Bright colors. Lace. Sparkles. Bouncy skirts. She put on one, then another, then another, until she had tried them all on. They were an easy gift to buy for her, on sale as Halloween close-outs. And they delighted her heart.
Our hope in Christ was not an easy “purchase” for him, coming as it did in death on a cross. But in his resurrection to eternal life we have gained a sure and certain gift. And one day we will find out what that gift fully means. It is something we can only imagine now and I think that on Christmas, as I watched my daughter, I saw a glimpse of the joy we will know in the presence of Jesus, as well as the joy he will display as we are gathered before him.
I’m going to close with a link to a song, by Sara Groves, from her CD Fireflies and Songs, called “Joy is in our Hearts.” (The lyrics are here.) Christmas has passed but our hope in Christ is ever present, and “for good reason joy is in our hearts.”
May you know the hope that brings for this deep and abounding joy, and share it in the world around you.