Put on the Full Footie PJs of Advent: Hope

I don't know about you, but this Christmas I need a little extra focus on Jesus.  I need Him close.  I want to wrap myself in those four advent words:  hope, love, joy, and peace.  I want a grown-up sized footie pajama of hope, love, joy, and peace to step into and zip up.  Life as a Christian isn't usually cozy.  We spend it putting on our full armor, which also includes those boots of peace, and fighting the spiritual battles of our lives.  

Just for this time of year, I need a soldier's reprieve.  I need to retreat, put on the full footie pajamas of advent, dust myself off, warm in the glow of His hope, fill up in the fullness of His love, bask in the completeness of His joy, rest in the goodness of His peace, ready myself for another year of the ongoing war.

I'm going to post an advent post each of the next four weeks.  Today's topic is hope.

How much do I need some hope today?  I can't even measure it.

The Old Testament ends with prophet Malichi's words.

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.
— Malachi 4 ESV

I'm sure every Israelite read those words and was completely ready for His healing wings.  They probably wanted Elijah to start ushering that day in right away.  These passages bring a promise, a promise that gives hope.  But oh how God takes His time!

Four hundred years pass.  Four hundred years!

It feels like four hundred years since we started this adoption journey.

I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that waiting does not naturally produce hope.  Waiting produces a lot of things: impatience, discontent, second-guessing, frustration, anger, and even numbness.

Standing in the Hobby Lobby line yesterday, I knew that I was going to need to just shut off my brain and wait or I would be downright angry about it.  I went numb and studied their candy collection.

If I'm honest with myself, I know I have let myself grow numb at times over our 3 years of waiting for our adoption.  Numb seems much better than anger, easier to hide in.  It doesn't stand out in a church service or Bible study like anger would.  I thought I was doing everyone a favor by choosing numbness.  The problem is that numbness is no more holy than anger, discontent, or impatience.

I need some hope.

I know there is something in your life that is a source of suffering that could easily produce anger or numbness.  We all have some kind of struggle we are dealing with.

How is this hope produced?  Romans 5 gives us the formula.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5 ESV

Hope isn't made by losing our temper or numbing out.  Hope is the reward for enduring the struggle.

Numbing out will never produce hope.

How easy is it to numb out in our culture?  How easy is it to numb out in our churches?

This advent we get a short cut.  We get to come to Him and get all the hope our little hearts can carry.  He's not checking our endurance cards at the door.  Because guess what?  Jesus is all about short cuts.  He came died and rose again to give us the biggest short cut this world has ever seen.  We cannot earn our place in Heaven, but our citizenship stamp was given when we accept His free gift of forgiveness.

Jesus isn't worried about whether or not we have persevered like an Eye-of-the-Tiger champ.  Jesus isn't going to quiz us on the ratio of time spent on our knees versus time spent in front of Netflix.  Praise Jesus!

This advent we come empty handed to the beautiful story of His birth.  The birth that was anticipated for not just four hundred years, but for all time.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
— Galatians 4:4-5 ESV

Come.  Accept your gift of hope as a son or a daughter.

We have done our best to preservere during those heavy struggles this year, but we don't always get it right.  We take some hope today anyway.

Let the glow of His hope warm your weary hearts.  Lord knows we need it.

A song for you today.