Hope and Anticipation
I love the early moments of the morning hunt. Through the last foggy breath, I turn off my headlamp to darkness. In the dark I wait. At best, I’ll be able to make out the silhouettes of the near horizon, and the tree tops that create it.
On the calmest mornings, you can hear your heartbeat speeding up and slowing from the hike. Stars glitter down through the tree limbs as if they are waiting to fall. Everything feels so close, and yet it’s no closer than it was in the daylight before.
The peculiar beauty of the moment isn’t my favorite part of this time of the day. It’s the anticipation. The hope of seeing what I have come to experience. The hope of success gives way to such anticipation that there have been times I gently closed my eyes and drew a deep, cold breath to calm my nerves.
We Need Hope
I don’t think I would hunt anymore if that hope didn’t exist. I need it to wake me up in the morning. It’s what makes me sit all day in the cold. It makes me break ice for a decoy spread. Hope drives me over the next ridge again and again.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Israel needed hope. It was nearly unrecognizable from the time of the patriarchs. It came in the form of a baby. It came in the most unlikely of places, in the most unlikely of ways. Hardly anyone even noticed.
Thirty-three years later, that hope would be nailed to a cross. It came forth in the form of blood, satisfying the Holy requirement of the father for all those he would save from eternal hopelessness.
As my family and I did our first week’s Advent study on hope, I asked my son if he thought it would be a good idea to hope a broken chair would hold him up. Of course he said no. Then, I asked my daughter if she thought it would be a good idea to hope that a sturdy, well-built chair would hold her up. She said yes.
Then I asked them both if they thought putting our hope for eternity with God in something we have made or have done was a good idea. They thought for a moment and said, “No.” I asked why, and this is the part I was very proud of. They both said, “Because what we do has sin in it, and God won’t allow sin in heaven.”
Of course the conversation continued. I asked, “What do you think our hope should be in?” I was surprised at how quickly they both responded, “Jesus.” Again I asked why. They responded, “Because he had no sin.”
I don’t tell that story to brag about my parenting. I tell it because of its truth. It’s amazing to me that children can be so settled on concept and principle, and yet, as adults, we grow less satisfied with such cut-and-dried answers.
Standing before a Holy, righteous, loving, and just God with the testimony of anything we have accomplished is like putting our faith in that broken, unreliable chair. It will not support the weight of God’s justice and our sinfulness. Placing our hope fully in the blood sacrifice and resurrection of God’s son, with whom God was well pleased, is the most durable and reliable place our hope for eternity in Heaven could ever be.
The difference between our anticipation for Christ’s return and the Shepherd’s hope for a savior is that the battle has been won. As you celebrate Christmas, will you examine the placement of your hope for eternity? Does the Christ described in Revelation cause you to grow excited about his return? In reality, a Christian’s celebration of Christmas isn’t a memorial of what was, it’s a reminder of what is to come.
Passage for Reflection
 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)