There is a clip in the Christmas movie classic: It’s A Wonderful Life where George Bailey, the main character, is frustrated with life. He is thinking about unmet expectations, challenges he’s faced, and various other disappointments in his life. Then, his wife shares she is pregnant, and he is filled with hope, the fire stokes once again in his gut.
As Christians, we understand that hope is a faith-driven view and anticipation of the future, based on the conviction that God is God is in control and true to His promises. You see, the object of hope is crucial. The object of hope cannot be human effort or worldly resources. No resources less than God is adequate to meet human needs. Hope’s object is not seen. As believers, we have not seen God or eternal life, but have hope as the result of our faith and God’s love for us. Hope is placed in God through the gospel, which promises eternal life and future rewards. It flourishes with patience, endurance, and tenacity.
Faith and hope are distinct yet related, as seen in Hebrews: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The relationship between faith and hope can be illustrated in the joy a child feels when his father tells him they are going to an amusement park tomorrow. The child believes that he will go to the amusement park, based on his father’s word—that is faith. At the same time, that belief within the child kindles an irrepressible joy—that is hope. The child’s natural trust in his father’s promise is the faith; the child’s squeals of delight and jumping in place are the expressions of hope.
Christians are people of faith and hope. When we look at the Christmas account, we discover that preparation is a statement of faith and the fruit of hope. Every detail of the Christmas account tells us that Mary and Joseph endured more of their fair share of trials as they waited for the arrival of Jesus. But they had hope! We read: “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk 1:39-40). Mary responds to the angelic message of being pregnant by going and staying with her relative Elizabeth until just before the birth of Jesus. This was a three to five-day journey. Given the immense social pressures and stigma that Mary was about to endure as an unwed mother, she sought comfort in Elizabeth, who would believe the divine nature of her conception. We discover that Elizabeth and Mary, filled with hope, celebrate what God was doing.
Joseph refused to reject Mary based on an angelic dream. We read: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt 1:14-25). Joseph refuses to allow the social norms of the day to keep him from being obedient to God’s will. It went against common sense, for we read earlier in the account: “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly” (Matt 1:19). This would have seemed in Joseph’s day like a merciful thing to do. But, Joseph now filled with hope and being directed by God in a dream of the nature of Mary’s pregnancy, and the Lord’s calling on him chooses to trust in God in the face of public ridicule and private gossip.
Think about all the buzz in town. We can imagine the neighbor’s gossip about the scandalous events of Mary’s pregnancy. But, Mary and Joseph had hope so they prepared and endured it all to be on a much greater mission than any carpenter’s family could imagine. Whenever we’re on mission with God like Joseph and Marry were as they waited for the birth of Jesus, we too filled with hope prepare.
What a wonderful hope we have in Christ that moves us to prepare for God’s working in and through our lives. Our Lord has come and proclaimed that He has a marvelous plan for your life. He has provided a way through Christ to walk with Him and spend eternity with Him in paradise. He desires to fill you with His Spirit to guide you, empower you, fill you with joy, freedom, and peace. God calls each of us to place our faith in Christ for salvation and that our belief in Him will kindle an irresistible joy – that is hope and that this hope will lead you to prepare for what the Lord desires to do in and through you. I ask, “the God of great hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope” (Rom 15:13)!
It is a tremendous blessing to share this wonderful hope in Christ with each of you. Let’s encourage one another to be people of faith and hope. As people of hope, let’s prepare for all the Lord is going to do in and through us. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!