May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
– Romans 15:13
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn… These words from Silent Night perfectly encapsulate what Christmas is all about: A Thrill of Hope.
And Christmas is truly a season of hope, but I’m not sure if we have used that word for its full meaning. We often use it for wishful thinking – “I hope I can afford this”, or “I hope I’m able to get away this Christmas” – and there is nothing wrong with that. But hope (elpizo in the Greek) in the Bible actually means expectation and anticipation. Not just a longing for something, but an expected outcome of an event. It’s a powerful word filled with faith.
If you want to see what true hope looks like, tell a young child that you are going to get them a special gift for Christmas. When my twin daughters, London and Kyleigh, hear the word “surprise”, that’s when they get a thrill of hope because they know Daddy has something special for them. They can hardly get through meal times and story times because they know they have a surprise coming. They do everything with speed and haste just so they can get to the surprise.
They are not “hoping” it happens, they are expecting it to happen! They will hold you at your word until they see it. And the shock is not that they get it, the shock is if they don’t get it! Isn’t that opposite of how we adults view hope? We are surprised when it does happen. But if we were truly in hope in the Biblical sense, we would be expecting it to happen.
Receiving the Hope of Christmas
I often think of the Magi, the wise men that came to see Jesus in Matthew 2. History tells us that they may have come from Persia or Babylon (Modern day Iran or Iraq). That is over two thousand kilometers on the back of a camel! They were not driven by wishful thinking that they would perhaps find the King of the Jews, they were expecting and anticipating that they would see Him. So, they came with gifts to pay homage knowing full well that He would be there.
And when the angels appeared to the shepherds in the field and shared with them the hope of the long-awaited Saviour of the world, the thrill of hope rang through their ranks and they said, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger (Luke 2:15, 16).
The hope that God brought to us when Jesus was born was not just wishful thinking. It was real hope, an expectation, and anticipation of something spectacular; salvation from sin, eternal life and the expectation of Heaven. Those of us that have received that hope live in the joy and benefit of it every day. But if you haven’t, don’t let this Christmas go by, without receiving that thrill of hope.