You know those embarrassing moments that you keep on file in your mind? They’re the moments you half wish you could reverse and re-do. And yet, they are moments that also make you smile and chuckle a little as you slowly shake your head and groan. I had one of those moments this Christmas.
A group of friends gathered to celebrate the season by giving gifts. One of the friends had packaged her gift to each of us in a similar style gift bag with tissue paper billowing out the top. Someone suggested we take out the tissue paper of our respective gifts on the count of three. What we didn’t realize was that: 1 – the gift was actually wrapped inside the tissue. And 2 – it was fragile. On 3, we lifted the tissue out. However, I lifted mine out with infinitely more gusto and excitement than the rest.
The tissue launched and left my fingers, flew through the air and landed on the rim of my tea mug. What followed was the ear-piercing sound of shattering glass. I looked up in horror and disbelief at the gift-giver’s face, and then we all burst into fits of laughter. I apologized profusely as I unfolded the fragment-filled tissue paper. Inside were the sad remains of a shattered Christmas ball ornament.
The irony of the mishap emerged when my friend shared why she had chosen this particular gift for us all. She wanted to give each of us an ornament that had the word hope written on it. She scoured the stores but couldn’t find a single one. And so, she went to work carefully marking hope onto a beautiful set of Christmas ball ornaments.
The redemption came, when she pulled out another gift bag and handed it to me. “Anna’s not here tonight, so I have another one!” she exclaimed. “And I have more at home, because I made extra.” Suddenly, we were all stunned with the realization of it: when hope shatters, there’s always more.
Sometimes our hope shatters. The unexpected call comes. The market crashes at the most inconvenient time. The bill arrives. The devastating diagnosis is given. A loved one leaves. That curveball knocks the wind right out of us. For years I’ve wrestled with how to define hope, how to live hope.
For years I’ve wrestled with how to define hope, how to live hope. Through endless mulling, brought on by seasons of compounded loss, I’m learning that to live hope is to believe that God will act on my behalf. It is holding onto God in the dark night. Hope is leaning hard on the truth that God is good. It is believing, despite the lack of evidence, that He is actively working. Hope is tenaciously holding to the fact that, one day, I will marvel at the outcome.
My good friend, Marv, once told me that December 21st is his favourite day of the year. It marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the darkest day of the year. But for Marv, it is the day with the most hope. It is the day that looks ahead to a world getting brighter and brighter.
Hope is one of the greatest gifts we can give. In a world where many people struggle with loneliness, anxiety, injustice and loss, we can be bearers of hope.
We can declare the dawn of a new day, a new way to live. The sad truth is that for those who don’t know Jesus, their version of hope is shallow and thin. They wish for something good to come. But they don’t know the Giver behind it all.
Hope shining into darkness
Real hope rings in a new year of God’s favour. That’s why God gave us Jesus. He knew there would be dark days. He knew that hope would shatter. And so Jesus entered our fragmented mess to give us hope. He moved in so that He could always be our hope. This is the good news that we proclaim to the poor, to the ones who don’t yet know the wealth of God’s presence. Jesus invites us to join Him in extending His comfort, showing the Way to true freedom, and shining light to those who live in darkness, so they can discover where all beauty and joy find their Source.
Jesus entered the dark to declare, “This is God’s year to act!” (see Isaiah 61; Luke 4) He lit the dawn of hope and invited us to join him in speaking and building his new Kingdom, here and now. When hopes shatter, all goes dark. Then God shows up, offering His hope that fractures the darkness. God gives what is needed most in the most unexpected ways. In this moment He invites us to join him in the offering, in the giving. For hope shines more brightly in us when we hold it for others.
With the dawning of a new year, I’ve set a new goal. I’ve set the goal to give. Wherever I go, my goal is to give hope to the one who needs it most: the person right in front of me. When their hope shatters, I want to give them another gift and tell them there’s more hope. I want them to see that a powerful God delights to act on their behalf. He is the One who fractures their darkness and works better things than they can imagine, in their future, because He is already there, lighting the way.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
There is always more hope! This year, I invite you to join in the giving of hope.