One week left until Christmas.
My prayer is, after you read the first sentence, that you felt a quickening of your heart—not in panic because you still have gifts to buy and presents to wrap and parties to plan—but because Christmas joy is brimming inside you.
In Part I and Part II of this series, I wrote about how I recaptured my Christmas joy after a very difficult 2016—a year that left me anxious, lifeless, and drained. First, by finding a way to serve, and second, by doing something I loved at Christmas, my joy began to blossom.
But for a complete instilling of Christmas joy, I needed to take one more step:
I dared to hope.
Romans 12:12 tells us to, “Rejoice in hope…” (ESV) And Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…” (ESV)
But hope in what?
Allow me to direct your thoughts to Bethlehem.
To shepherds, who ran with excitement to a stable after angels told them about a miraculous birth.
To Mary, a young, unwed mother, who cradled a Savior in her arms.
To a baby, born in a manger. To a promise in swaddling clothes. To God’s bursting declaration that he is with us. To physical proof that he loves us. To his yearning to have us with him always.
To hope in Jesus.
Maybe this is a funny thing for a Christian to say. I mean, shouldn’t my hope already be in Jesus?
Last year, I realized Jesus is more than my belief that he is God, that he loves me, and that, if I follow him, I will spend eternity with him.
The hope of Jesus is hope here on earth, too.
As we all know, life on earth can be hard. This Christmas, we may be staggering after a divorce, death, disappointment, or devastation. In my case, I found myself unable to grasp joy again after a relentless year of watching my children suffer. Or maybe it’s the long haul that’s exhausting—the daily grind of running around, juggling jobs and kids and laundry, lack of sleep, and absence of free time. We look to the future, lift our hands in exasperation, and wonder if we’ll ever slow down long enough to experience joy again.
This Christmas, dare to hope.
Dare to believe God when he said, ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
Dare to let your knuckled turn white as you cling to Jesus’ words, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20 NLT)
Dare to embrace his love.
Dare to weep and give him your pain.
Dare to close your eyes and bathe in his glory.
Dare to lift your hands—not in exasperation, but in praise.
Dare to rest your cares on our big God’s shoulders. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)
Dare to place your life, and the life of the people you love, in his everlasting hands.
Dare to follow him, despite what the world tells you.
Dare to be teachable.
Dare to submit to him, even when you don’t understand why he’s moving the way he is.
Dare to trust him.
Dare to love him.
Dare, like Mary, to treasure the miracle of Jesus’ birth and ponder it in your heart.
Dare to hope in him! To heal your yesterdays. To be in your todays. To guide your tomorrows. Because, when we hope in Jesus, God will restore our joy.
This Christmas, my prayer for you is that the miracle of Christ’s birth and his promise of his hope causes an explosion of joy in your hearts!