Hope is a fragile and delicate commodity. Without knowing it, we occasionally barter our happiness and well-being for some future reality, provision or event. And if we’re honest, when that future reality finally appears, we inexplicably find ourselves feeling the weight of an unspoken disappointment. What is it that drains the joy out of those long-awaited, anxiously anticipated dreams and expectations that grip our hearts?
The early church father, St. Augustine, once wrote, ““Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Restlessness is a malady of the soul where the heart is assailed by the future, or some longing that has yet to be fulfilled. It’s a place where the present holds little value in comparison to what is desired and still absent, whether it’s a possession, an achievement, a destination, a relationship, or a preferred outcome. Children often experience a form of restlessness during the Christmas season. Weeks of anticipation culminate in an unbridled display of frenzied gift opening on Christmas morning. But nearly every parent has witnessed that moment when all the presents have been unwrapped and the kids slip into a state of despondency when they realize the last gift has been opened and a subtle disappointment permeates the room. The adults escape the rising tension by scurrying off to the kitchen to prepare breakfast or check on the turkey while the children contemplate which gift comes closest to fulfilling their holiday expectations. Indeed, hope is not only fragile, but somewhat fickle as well. It seems that our hearts are truly restless.
If we agree that holiday consumerism is not the gateway to lasting hope, then we must anchor our hearts in something, or someone, completely different. Hope can only germinate in the soil of personal conviction – that Christmas is not about what we want, it’s about what we need. So how does a holiday in December answer the question about your deepest need? When the Word became flesh (John 1:14), the centerpiece of your hope appeared in bodily form. Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation, a moment in history when God chose to dwell among us. In a world where chaos and disappointment seem to reign supreme, God did not demand that we get our collective act together, exhibit moral fortitude and then peace out. No, for God so loved the world that he first descended personally through the birth of the Christ-child. All of this was orchestrated to address your greatest need, which is to redeem and restore the inner brokenness that plagues your restless heart. That brokenness is called sin, and a holy God refused to allow sin to reign in and over you.
So in his birth, death and resurrection, Christ has become our hope. And in Romans 5:5, Paul declared that the hope we have in Christ will not put us to shame. What Paul means is that our hope, if appropriately and supremely grounded in Jesus, will not result in disappointment or frustration. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
If Christ is the source and object of your hope, he will never leave you disheartened, disenchanted or defeated. That’s a hope we can believe in!
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). He is God with us, God for us, and God in us. May your restless heart find its hope solely in Jesus.