Written by Dawn Rutan
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight” (Phillips Brooks).
The first Sunday of Advent is often linked with the theme of hope, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this line from “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Brooks wrote the song a few years after the Civil War, so I expect he knew a bit about hopes and fears. When life is easy and free from anxiety, who needs hope? But hope is a lifeline when fears are overwhelming.
I have often been guilty of thinking of Christian hope as something rooted in the future. The hope for a perfected world for eternity is a good hope and one worth hanging onto. But that’s not the only hope. As Brooks correctly identified, our fears are addressed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus two millennia ago. Our hope is grounded in the past, not just in the future. Christ meets us in our fears.
- When we fear that God doesn’t hear— “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard… O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (Daniel 10:12, 19 ESV).
- When we feel alone and weak— “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand… For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:10, 13).
- When shame hangs over us— “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more” (Isaiah 54:4).
- When we fear death— “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17b-18).
- When we are suffering— “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:20).
- When persecution comes— “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested… Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
I’ve found that hope is a choice. It is choosing to believe the promises of God over the lies of the world. It isn’t always easy to believe that God is good and that He is in control. There are times when hope feels too risky. There are times when admonitions to hope simply fall on deaf ears. But even when we don’t hear it, feel it, or understand it, God is still faithful.
Edward Welch wrote in Shame Interrupted,
“Hope was once a curse to you. It was just another occasion for disappointment and grief… Some days the truth sounds like mere words… When you believe what God has said rather than lies, you are doing valuable work. When you choose hope over despair, your choice has lasting significance. When you get out of bed and persevere in ordinary obedience because you are representing the King, your labor is noticed even by heavenly beings (Ephesians 3:10)” (317, 320, 324).
May this Christmas season bring renewed hope to all who seek Him.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11).
© 2017 Dawn Rutan. The views stated may or may not reflect the beliefs of the pastor or leadership of Dulin’s Grove Church.