During the 30 years of my life that I spent religiously not going to church, I don’t recall ever searching for “hope in Christ.”
I hoped for all kinds of other stuff … hoped I’d get a job, get married, have children, do well, stay healthy, etc. It never occurred to me to examine the quality of hope or where it came from. I was fortunate to ride out life’s good times and bad in the hope that things would get better, rather than in despair that they wouldn’t.
A lot of people have hope, especially Americans. Optimism and freedom, the essential seeds of hope, are an American birthright. Hope in the world, to me, didn’t seem especially better or worse than hope in the Lord. Hope was hope. Freedom was freedom. What’s the difference?
Well … big difference, obviously, but it took faith to make me see it.
Right now millions and millions of optimistic, non-churched Americans are planning and hoping for a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holiday or whatever. And they will have one. They are aware that the greatest joy of this season is in the giving not the receiving. They get the Christian meaning of the season. But they shortchange themselves by limiting their hope to the secular holiday. They miss the cosmic enormity of hope given to us by God in the eternal salvation and divine New Covenant power of faith that was introduced to humanity in the humility and fragility of the baby Jesus born in the obscurest of humble mangers. The manger is Christmas, but Jesus is life.
Why are people so hard to evangelize when the most basic Christmas messages of giving, of peace, and of joy, are at once shared and commonly desired by almost everyone? Because putting one’s entire life, hope and eternity exclusively into the hands of Jesus Christ through our faith requires forfeiture of our assuredness in our own power. Even if that human assuredness is a false truth and temporal mirage, it’s easier to understand and explain than the divine assuredness of hope in Christ.
Christians, in love bordering on desperation, want to give that gift of hope. And while it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35), hope in Christ has to be received in faith before it can be given in love.
Maybe that’s why it never occurred to me to shop for it.
Walters (commonchristinity.blogspot.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) went to church as a kid but didn’t find his faith until he was 46.