A Thrill of Hope

It’s the day after Christmas and, if I am being honest, I am glad this December is coming to an end. I have struggled a lot this month. It feels like everything I have put my hands to or planned has not worked out as I imagined it would. That mixed with a year of deep disappointment has weighed on me. Don’t get me wrong, we have been blessed immensely, and it doesn’t take me long to come up with a list of things to be thankful for. I can see God’s fingerprints all over our days. However, it feels like all the big things we have prayed for all year are still unanswered. We are still contending for all the same things we were contending for at the start of the year. While I see growth in our lives and while I am still very confident that God will come through for us (I Remain Confident), I am also very tired.

Every year, many Christians celebrate “advent”, typically starting December 1 and ending on December 24. This is a season where the church stops and focuses on a season that is all about expectantly waiting for a Savior. Like many others, I started a special study designed to help me slow down and behold the Father and all the promises this season held.

When I think of Advent, I typically think of spending a lot of time in Isaiah. Beautiful descriptive promises are found in Isaiah. The promise of a child. The promise of a savior. One of my favorite verses is found in Isaiah 9:6-7a. It says this in the English Standard Version (ESV) :

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…..”

In years past, I have loved focusing on Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. I love the promise that His peace will never end. I have sat in that promise so many times. I love Isaiah because it doesn’t just promise the Savior’s arrival, but the book promises exactly how the Savior would come and how He would save us. It’s a book full of hope and promises.

So, on December 1, I sat down with my study ready to dig into Isaiah and uncover new gems I hadn’t seen before. Imagine my surprise, when the study didn’t start with Isaiah but with Genesis. Friends, I am not even half way done with the study.  It’s not because I wasn’t faithful, it’s because in one of the very first days of the study, I realized something I had never seen before and I have been camping in it ever since. 

I was raised in the church and have read Genesis more times than I can count, but I was surprised to see Isaiah wasn’t the first time the children of God were promised a Savior.  The Father made a promise in the very beginning to Adam and Eve that one of their offspring would crush Satan (Genesis 3:15).  Friends, I don’t know if you are seeing this like I did, but the Father created the earth, Adam and Eve sinned and then the wait for our savior immediately began. The Father always had our redemption in His heart and mind. 

I don’t know how many years it was from when Adam and Eve left the garden to when Isaiah proclaimed a savior was coming. I also don’t know how long it was from when Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ arrival to when He was actually born. But it’s safe to say the wait for a savior was long. However, God’s people listened to this promise and held on to it with all their might. In faith, they told their children. And in faith, those children told their children. After hundreds of years, maybe even thousands of years, God’s people were still waiting. Promises were made, but were not yet fulfilled. If I am being honest, this realization didn’t fill me to the brim with hope, it made me even more tired. Suddenly I felt like David in all the Psalms “How long must I wait!?”

As I turned this over and over in my mind, I kept thinking about one of my favorite Christmas songs “Oh Holy Night”. Eight words from the song kept ringing in my head on repeat. Over and over and over again, I’d hear…

 “…A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices…”

It seemed that all around me, these eight words kept appearing. On a sweatshirt from one of my favorite shops, on artwork, on social media and on the radio. I know “Oh Holy Night” is an incredibly popular Christmas song and so it’s probably not crazy to you that I was seeing these words everywhere, however it felt out of the norm to me. So I started taking note.

Google defines thrill as “a sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure” and hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. Friends, Jesus’ birth and life was the fulfillment of the longest awaited promise in history. Yes, the world was weary, but that’s far from the point. The point is the promise was fulfilled. Jesus came. 

  • Jesus came to save me from this broken world. He came to light up all the darkness.
  • Jesus came to save me from my sins. He paid for everything I did wrong, so that I could have eternal life with Him.
  • Jesus came to heal my broken heart, over and over again.
  • Jesus came to restore my health.
  • Jesus came to destroy my fear.
  • Jesus came to give me rest in the middle of an exhausting world.
  • Jesus came because He loves me, and He would do it all over again simply because He loves me.

Jesus’ arrival changes everything. That arrival was a thrill “a sudden feeling of excitement and pleasure” of hope “a feeling of expectation and desire”. The weary world rejoiced, because they knew hope had arrived. I can continue to rejoice because Jesus’ arrival is only just the start.

Jesus birth, His life, death and resurrection is the fulfillment to so many long awaited promises. This season isn’t just about celebrating a babies birth, it’s about celebrating Jesus’ life and eternal reign. It’s about celebrating His unchanging character and His unfailing promises.

Here I am, two thousand years later, still waiting for my Savior. I’m waiting for Him to show up and restore my health. I’m waiting for the miracle babies I know He has promised. I am also contending for miracles I haven’t written about in this space. I am waiting for a Savior, and yet I am surrounded by pain and transition.  I am weary. I am not the only one struggling. I have people all around me facing tough situations, hard relationships, disease, financial hardships, depression, and so much more. We live in a fallen world, and that means we often face hard situations. In one way or another, we are still waiting for our Savior to show up and provide the breakthrough He promised. It seems that many around me are weary. 

The best part about Christmas is that hope didn’t end when the Savior came. Jesus defeated death, He is alive and moving every day. I can wait in eager expectation. I can wait with hope because the Father who fulfilled the promise of a Savior is still in the business of answering His promises. I can rejoice, even in the midst of my weariness because He a God who comes through. 

As I sat down to write these words, I looked up the lyrics to “Oh Holy Night”. I wanted to read them one more time before writing. Do you know what the line after “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” is?

“…For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”

The word yonder is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “at or in that indicated more or less distant place usually within sight”. The simple fact is, He is moving even when I don’t see Him. Even when I feel like my prayers are going unanswered, and I am wondering “How long Lord?”,  He is working all things out for my good. A new and glorious morning is within HIS sight! 

Let’s go back to the original wait for the Savior in the Old Testament. I am sure some people waited well and some did not. However, the way they waited didn’t delay the promise; the Savior still came. The way they waited couldn’t stop the promise from being fulfilled, however the way they waited impacted their hearts. We have a choice in our wait friends. We can choose to cling to the thrill of hope. We can choose to rejoice even in the midst of our weariness, or we can choose to wait angrily. Choosing to wait well doesn’t mean we won’t grow weary, but it does mean we will refuse to allow weariness to stop us from clinging to hope and rejoicing in the midst of all of it. 

If you are feeling heavy today, first I want to tell you that you aren’t alone. I really do get it. However, I also want to tell you that Jesus came because He loves us enough to become flesh and take on our sin, my sin, so we don’t have to pay the price.  He is still in the business of fulfilling promises, and it all started with a newborn King who came to bring joy to a weary and broken world, fulfilling a prophecy that had been preached for thousands of years. This is the thrill of hope.

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