Davion Only is a 15-year-old orphan in Florida. Last October, he made a public plea for a family. Now he’s moved in with a prospective family with whom he’ll spend the holidays. If all goes well, they may become his “forever family.”
What are you hoping for this Christmas? Advent services traditionally focus on the themes of hope, joy, love and peace. Let’s explore each in turn this week.
Napoleon Bonaparte observed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo noted, “The word which God has written on the brow of every man is Hope.” It’s been said that “the world of tomorrow belongs to those who brought it the greatest hope.”
But what is “hope”? Upon reflection, I’ve decided that it is not an entity. How much does “hope” weigh? What color is it? Rather, hope is a category, like “friendship.” Here’s my definition: “a plausible positive future.” Hope relates to the future, or it’s a past memory or present experience. We don’t hope that we got better grades in seventh grade or hope that it is warmer right now.
Hope is positive, or it is fear. And it must be plausible, or it’s merely a wish. When I was a boy, my greatest Christmas hope was for a Stallion bicycle. It looked like a motorcycle, complete with spring-loaded seat and aluminum bars. I didn’t hope for a backyard swimming pool like our neighbor’s. I wished for one, but I didn’t hope for it. Hope is a plausible positive outcome.
We have two choices to make with regard to hope: what we hope for, and what we hope in. If you hope for your competitor at work to get sick or for the economy to crash so you can manipulate the market, the rest of us would say that your hope is less than positive. Choose carefully what you hope for, because your hopes, your goals, your plausible positive future sets your life direction.
Be careful what you hope in as well. If you hope in a source that cannot deliver what you hope for, you’ve made a mistake. When I hoped for a Stallion bike, I didn’t put my hope in my younger brother, since he had even less money than I did. I put my hope in my parents, and my hope was rewarded.
How does hope relate to Christmas?
Isaiah 9 describes the coming Messiah as a “Wonderful Counselor” (v. 6). “Wonderful” in the Hebrew means “so full of wonder as to be miraculous.” “Counselor” points to the wisest person in the land, someone who is able to advise kings and other national leaders. Taken together, the words can be rendered, “he who plans wonderful things.” Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s prediction: “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
What is your greatest aspiration, your highest hope today? In whom are you trusting for its fulfillment? Your aspirations determine your purpose, which determines your eternal significance. Choose wisely.