Here’s an Advent riddle for you: Name something every single human being on Planet Earth desperately needs every day, but probably doesn’t know it.
Air perhaps? Or water?
I’m actually thinking of a must-have, spiritual resource without which nothing else may do you much good.
I realize 2023 has been a tough year for many. I know a lot of folks feel their reserves of hope have just about run dry. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, and so are prices at the grocery store and interest rates for a loan. On a more alarming level, terror attacks, wars, wildfires, and other natural disasters are claiming innocent lives every day. You name it and it’s probably happened.
Let’s face it: For some of our friends and neighbors, hope is in short supply.
The dedicated staff and volunteers I’m blessed to work with know all about this. At a non-profit responding to earthquakes, genocide, and destitute poverty – among other crises – they see it first-hand every time they say goodbye to their families and travel thousands of miles to lend a helping hand to those in need.
Helping people in their hour of greatest need has taught us a priceless lesson, one that must be shared this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Experience teaches us that before those who’ve lost everything can move forward, their lost hope must be restored. We’ve learned that you have to have hope. It’s non-negotiable. As we read in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”
As you read this, maybe you’re battling depression again as the holidays approach. Maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one or are experiencing health problems. Perhaps it’s a financial setback that’s leaving you hopeless right now.
But you’re not alone. Those we’ve met in hospitals, refugee camps, and warzones are in these very same situations. We ourselves deal with these setbacks on many occasions as well. And based on these experiences, we know there really is a way out of the deepest, darkest, most hopeless situations.
Even if you’re not particularly religious, just indulge me and consider the words Paul wrote in Romans 15:13. The passage reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Think about that for a moment. The Creator of heaven and earth is known as “the God of hope.” It sounds like the one who made us knows that hope is pretty essential.
In fact, later in Scripture we read that hope is one of only three things that stand the test of time. We read in the book of 1 Corinthians, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.”
Whether it’s residents of Maui whose entire neighborhoods were burned to the ground by fire; or the Ukrainian mothers we saw carrying infants as they fled across the border into Poland; or the residents of Ein HaBesor in Israel who fended off Hamas, there’s always one thing we know they’ll need.
Whenever we’ve handed someone a warm meal or given them the keys to a safehouse apartment that their refugee family needs to survive, we’ve witnessed the light of hope return in their eyes. It’s like watching a complete shift in their spirit in real time when they realize hope isn’t lost forever after all.
In this season, we celebrate the hope of a savior who would one day save us from all our failures. He gave us hope that life does not end in the grave as well.
Yet even still, his hope extended further. It’s important to remember that throughout his ministry on earth, Jesus reached out to those who were marginalized and ostracized by society. He cared for the socially outcast, showing them that they were loved and valued in the eyes of God. Jesus offered hope to corrupt tax collectors and other criminals, in addition to those who had endured horrors at no fault of their own. He saw the blind and cripple, the hungry and the poor. No one was ever excluded from the hope he offered.
More than 2,000 years ago, that gift of hope arrived for all who would accept it. It came with the birth of the baby Jesus.
“Fear not,” the angel in Bethlehem declared, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
And with those words, God’s gift of hope entered the world.
Whatever you may be facing this Christmas, whatever adversity the world may cast your way, know that hope is never out of reach.
The hope that comes from Jesus remains a steadfast anchor for the soul, guiding us toward a brighter and more promising future. It’s hope that anyone and everyone can cling to, for this life, and the next.