The Many HOPES of Christmas

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by Scott Cahan, …. 

Everyone, it seems, loves Christmas. Sure, there are some modern-day Scrooges who have their reasons for not liking Christmas, but the majority of us find something special to enjoy about Christmas time. I believe that something special is a little word with a big meaning … hope. I have observed that practically everyone, young and old, finds something to hope in during the holiday season that lifts their spirits and gives them something to celebrate. This includes Christians, people of other faiths, people who don’t know what they believe, and even people who claim to be atheists. This happens at Christmas time, more than any other time of the year. It’s caused me to ask myself, why does everyone, regardless of their beliefs about God, seem so equally filled with hope? As I’ve considered the various things that people hope in I’ve concluded that they all fit into six categories. Although these categories of hope are all unique in their own way they all have something in common, the reason that we look to them in the first place. That reason is that we are all longing for things to get better. We’re all looking for more joy, peace, and love. That’s a tall order. To think that anything could deliver those kinds of positive feelings to us means that the hope that we are trusting in must be very special indeed.  Let’s take a quick look at each of the six hopes and see which, if any, are capable of making things better.

1. Hope in Family

This is one of the most common types of hope and rightly so. We humans are relational creatures and it only makes sense that we would find the most enjoyment from the people who are closest to us. I would agree that family is a great place to look for joy, peace, and love. The only problem is that family can also let us down and often does. Even if we have an awesome family who is always there for us, eventually our family members will grow old or sick or relationships will be strained, and things will change in a direction that won’t fill us with peace, joy, and love. Our hope in our family is great most of the time, but at some point, we can count on it to let us down.

2. Hope in Ourselves

Sure, we should all like ourselves and have confidence in our own abilities. In a sense, we all need to have hope in ourselves too. But don’t let this one go so far as to believe that you are Superman or Superwoman and you can do everything yourself without any help from any person or any God. Putting it this way may sound a bit extreme but I’m only stating one of the most popular themes in practically every kid’s movie that has come out in the last 20 years. “All you need to do is believe in yourself and anything will be possible.” This is the kind of hope that sounds great on the surface but it has very little basis in reality. We should all strive to be the best person we can be while getting the help with life that we need from the ones who love us; parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, mentors, and God.

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3. Hope in Mankind

This one probably makes the least amount of sense to me. The thought is that human beings are basically good and we will eventually work our way to peace and prosperity. Anyone who believes in this kind of hope need only browse the headlines of any online news site for a few days and they should come to the conclusion that mankind is heading in the wrong direction. Instead of peace, love, and prosperity, our world is on the fast track toward war, hatred, and poverty.

4. Hope in Science

Science is a good thing that benefits us all in more ways than we can count, every day. I also believe that science as a discipline is not anti-God. On the contrary, the Judeo-Christian Bible agrees with science in every measurable way. A hope in science and progress is good in a superficial sense, as long as we don’t look to science for any kind of eternal peace or joy. People who don’t believe in a personal loving God like to hold up science as our hope. At best, science can only help us to feel more comfortable at times and give us confidence that smart people have everything under control. That works for a little while until a new discovery comes along and the science we were believing in is suddenly proven to be wrong.

5. Hope in the Magic of Christmas

This kind of hope might be in all of us to some degree. Even if we have another kind of hope that is based on something real, many of us still get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the thought of participating in certain Christmas traditions that have meaning to us. That, I believe, is the magic of Christmas. However, I’ve seen far too many people in person or in movies that obviously have no belief in God or science or even themselves to base their hopes on, yet their pleasant demeanor and child-like behavior suggest that they are believing in some kind of hope. They have most likely placed their hope solely in the magic of Christmas, whatever that is. These are the kind of people who don’t really believe in anything. They float through life, bouncing from one big event to another, trying to get by the best they can, and doing their best to not think about the fact that they will someday die. The magic of Christmas is the most artificial kind of hope there is, yet it is possibly the most dominant of all the hopes in our American culture today. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with hoping in the magic of Christmas. In fact, we all need the magic of Christmas in our life. However, when this is a person’s only source of hope, their situation will become sad and hopeless as soon as Christmas is over

6. Hope in a Savior

This is the kind of hope that is being buried today in our secular culture. In fact, my guess is that a large percentage of Americans couldn’t explain what the manger scene has to do with hope. We know that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a son who she called Jesus. Some wise men and some shepherds came to see him. There were animals standing around and a bright star overhead, but what’s all that have to do with hope?

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Here is the answer. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of God’s rescue plan for all mankind. God himself came to the world in the flesh as the baby Jesus. He had to be born and live a perfect life so that he could be the sacrifice for all of us humans who had no hope of entering heaven. The bible says if we have only one sin in our life then we cannot be with God when we die. A sacrifice had to be made to deal with our sins. God himself became our sacrifice when he was nailed to the cross and killed like a criminal. Although he was completely innocent, he willingly allowed himself to die so that we sinful humans could have a hope of going to heaven when we die. And then he rose from the grave (Easter) and is still alive today. The fact that He can be resurrected is a sure sign that He is able to raise us from the grave too. All you or I have to do is accept his sacrifice as our own and then we will become part of God’s family. Once we choose to follow him, then and only then will our hope of going to heaven become a sure thing. It is no longer the kind of hope that we hope will happen, rather it’s the kind of hope that we know will happen, without any doubt. This plan of God’s hope is laid out in the Bible in vivid detail. If you’d like specific verses or if you have questions, please leave a comment, or email me at scottcahan@gmail.com.

Conclusion

I’ve written this exploration into the different kinds of hope not to knock hopes 1 through 5. Those are all good kinds of hope in their own way. I am just hoping to remind us that there truly is one kind of hope that stands head and shoulders above the rest. What makes a hope in a savior so special? Simply put, it’s a hope that is sure to come to pass, and it’s a hope that will last for all eternity. Those who have given their lives to the hope of Jesus Christ have the promise of the God of the Universe that they will someday be in His presence where there is no sadness, no death or war, and no sickness.

It’s my hope that everyone who reads this will decide to grab a hold of two kinds of hope. One is the magic of Christmas to give you plenty of warm-and-fuzzies throughout the Christmas season. The other is the hope for a savior because it will carry you far beyond December 25th. If you’re looking for joy, peace, and love that will last for all eternity, then placing your hope in a savior named Jesus Christ is the only way to go.

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