(Photo by Natalie Reed)
Hope for Today and Tomorrow
By Kris Ann K. Erickson
The year of her eighth Christmas, my mom recalls tiptoeing down the steep stairs of her family’s 2-story farmhouse and rushing to the Christmas tree. The day before, she and her younger brother had quarreled terribly, and she was afraid that her misbehavior would result in no gifts. However, her trepidation turned to joy when she spied amongst the gifts a long, slender package addressed to both herself and her brother. Oh, glorious day! She had not been forgotten!
The quarrelsome siblings now knelt together on either side of the gift. With great kindness and consideration for one another, they slowly unwrapped the gift, wondering what delight lay beneath the layers of paper and string. When the box was uncovered, they paused reverently, and in unison lifted the lid. Inside lay a smooth, smart stick cut from the backyard tree!
If 2020 were a gift, it would be a long, narrow box with a stick inside.
Expectations can be awfully disappointing. Someone once wrote that “expectations are premeditated resentments.” While this may often prove true, I submit that unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments. As a follower of Jesus, I do have expectations that I can bank on. What might be realistic expectations for 2021? Dare we be hopeful?
Before we look at realistic expectations, let us consider the word hope. Most often, when I use the word hope, I mean “wishful thinking” as in “I hope I lose 10 pounds without trying” or “I hope all the laundry is done when I get home.”
When the Bible speaks of hope, it is not referring to “wishful thinking;” the hope referenced in the Bible actually means “confident expectation!” This is the nature of all hope placed in GOD!! We can confidently expect that His Word is true!
Over 2000 years ago, the long-awaited Savior slipped quietly into the world as a helpless baby in a smelly animal shelter. The people of God had been waiting since they were banned from the Garden for a promised King who would overthrow their enemies and establish a new kingdom. At the time of Jesus’ birth, four hundred years had passed since God spoke. For 400 years, he was silent, not speaking through prophets, nor angels, nor clouds, nor fires. God was silent, but God was not asleep. In His perfect way, He was preparing to plant a new creation, a new hope – His son in the womb of a woman. We just couldn’t see it.
In the same way, we may struggle to trust that He is working in the midst of today’s upheaval, shutdowns, and division. Still, friends, we can confidently expect that He IS working things out.
Here are a few gifts that we can expect from God.
- Unconditional love (Romans 8:38-39)
- His constant and faithful presence (Matthew 28:20)
- Transformation by way of His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- An unimaginably amazing eternity (1 Corinthians 2:9)
If you struggle to find biblical hope this season, consider whether either of these might be the culprit.
- You’ve placed your hope on something or someone who is not Jesus. When my hope for the season hinges on anything but Him; i.e. perfect food, perfect décor, perfect marriage, perfect work schedule, perfect gifts; I am endlessly disappointed.
- You’ve placed your hope in a Jesus that you made up. In the time of Jesus, many Jews were looking for an earthly king, an earthly kingdom and earthly freedom. Jesus came first to establish a spiritual kingdom and free his people from the bondage of sin.
2020 may not look like we hoped it would, but we can trust that He IS who He says He is, and He will do what He says He will do. Let’s align our expectations with God’s Word, and rest in the confidence that they will be met.
‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’ (Jeremiah 29:11)
Our hope and our future has been ushered in as the baby in the manger who lived and died and lives still to be our Savior. Jesus is the gift that never disappoints.