Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, Christmas season is officially here! I know that some people like Christmas music as soon as it is November, but I’m the sort that likes to enjoy Thanksgiving before Christmas. I’m all about being thankful all year, especially for the birth, life, death, and resurrection of my Savior. There are many things I love about the holidays in our small community.
I love the lights! There is nothing like going for a walk or a drive on a cold night and being reminded that the Light of the World was born into this world of darkness. I also love the singing! If I walk around stores, singing about the birth of Jesus any other time of the year I will get a funny look. People might still look at me funny, but maybe a little less.
I think my favorite thing about this time of the year is the focus on hope. The birth of Jesus is all about hope, the hope of God’s promises. Throughout the Old Testament, the promise was that God would do something that would make things right. We read, in Jeremiah 33:14, “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made…” This is the cry of every saint, that God would make good on his promises. “Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.” (Psalm 25:6)
This is where we remember what the Biblical idea of hope is. We think of hope as something along the lines of a wish. When we hope something will happen, we wish it will happen. When we tell someone that we hope they will have a good trip, or a nice day, we are not making a declaration. We are merely wishing them well. This is not the Biblical idea of hope. The Biblical idea of hope is something that is certain, though unseen.
Biblical hope is wrapped up with faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The words that are used are not meant to drive home an idea that faith or hope are subjective. The word for ‘assurance’ is made up of two words that mean, literally, “to stand under” and it speaks of the objective aspect and underlying reality behind something. It is a word that is used to speak of foundations. Faith is more than simply a subjective feeling – you see, it is the objective foundation for the reality of what we believe. Other translations speak of it as the ‘substance of things hoped for.’
The second word that is used to describe faith, conviction, also is not a subjective word. Other translations will use the word ‘evidence.’ This is a word used elsewhere to speak of verification or proof for something. So, the author of Hebrews would not say that their belief is based on faith or hope as opposed to evidence or proof; rather, the faith, given by God, is the proof; it is the substance, the foundation.
All of this helps us to think about the birth of Christ as well as the hope that we have. The Old Testament saints waited long for Christ. He was the one promised all the way back in Genesis 3:15 when sin and death entered the world. There we read, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” God promises to send a redeemer who will defeat the Serpent. Eve was so excited that she declared, with the birth of Cain, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
The saints of old would wait a long time, though, as their hope was challenged. You can imagine receiving the promise and not seeing it after a hundred, two hundred, a thousand, or even two thousand years! The hymn captures it best, “Come, thou long expected Jesus!” Promised from the beginning of the story and yet he would not be born for a long time. Paul says, “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” The saints of old waited with patience for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25) even as we wait for Christ’s second coming. Rejoice in his first coming even as we wait for him to come again!
Pastor Everett Henes, the pastor of the Hillsdale Orthodox Presbyterian Church, can be reached at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Hillsdale Daily News: Lifestyles