daily devotional

My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. It’s one of those songs I sing every year during a candlelight service that gets me all choked up. It says:

“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees. Oh hear the angel voices. O night, divine. O night, when Christ was born.

The night when Christ was born. The manger scene, yes the scene that changed our lives. A thrill of hope. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

Does Christmas still thrill you? Are you truly excited about Christmas? If I were to remind you today that Christmas is 2 days away, would you say “I’m THRILLED” or would your mind immediately stress over all you still have to do? Has your long list of chores and duties robbed you from the wonder of Christmas? Plan the party, trim the tree, max out the Visa, stuff it, wrap it, pack it, ship it (oh wait, it’s too late to ship it), make it, take it, fake it. Over eat, feel disgusting, and be angry at yourself for falling completely off the wagon again. Dang it … why do we do that?

Where’s the thrill of hope in that?

Jesus came to this world on that holy night to offer you and I hope. A hopeless world received hope. You and I, hopeless in our overwhelm, hopeless in our bad habits, hopeless in our stress and mess, we received hope. This is our gift. It is hope. Hope that there’s a purpose in all of this. Hope that we’re not alone. Hope that there’s good plan and we haven’t missed it. Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Understand our God is the God of hope. You are not hopeless. There is not a single situation in your life that is hopeless. God reigns over all. He is sovereign. He is powerful. He is true and he is just. He is here today to fill you with joy and peace so that you may ABOUND IN HOPE. Hope in the time of year when hope is supposed to be our default emotion, yet truthfully this has become the time of year we hurt most. We ache for those who won’t be around the table this year. We yearn for things to be more perfect than our reality presents. We wish for things to be different, but they’re not. Add on the pressure of “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and we’re pretty darn convinced everyone else’s life must be a lot better than ours.

It is an undeniable work of the enemy to rob you of your hope. How does he do that? He causes you to focus on all that is wrong. Why? Because as you’re zeroed in on the problem, you are zapped of the power to do a darn thing about it. You are awake all night worrying, so of course you wake up too exhausted to show up as your best self the next morning. It’s a snowball effect of the yuck in your life, blocking your view from all that is still undeniably beautiful. And when the yuck builds up and that’s all you see, you become weary.

We are weary. Weary from the fight. Yes, the fight to at least LOOK like we have it all together. What do the weary need? Hope.

“A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” ~ O Holy Night

Jesus offers hope and hope should provide a thrill. This whole thing should be thrilling, exciting, and full of anticipation. That manger scene, those songs we sing, the gifts we give in remembrance of his birthday, this should be a THRILL. But is it really a thrill for you? Have we gotten so wrapped up in the “be here’s” and “do this’s” that we’ve lost the thrill of Christmas? If you didn’t wake up excited today, perhaps you’re doing it wrong. I mean seriously, those of us who woke up to life in the absence of a true crisis, shouldn’t we be thrilled with this gift?

If you’re just ready for Christmas to be over already, oh my sister … you’ve missed something. Let’s find it again. Right now. How can we get back that excitement?

What if this could be the most exciting, most precious and priceless Christmas you’ve ever experienced? What if this Christmas has the potential to be that most memorable year that you look back on in all future years? Oh, would you feel the thrill of hope? And let me reassure you, you don’t have to be in the perfect log cabin in the mountains, surrounded by a fluffy snow, yet mildly warm temperatures and a cozy fire to have a truly memorable Christmas. You can be in a hospital room having a truly memorable Christmas. You can be stuck in an airport having a truly memorable Christmas.

In my 25 years of Christmases spent with my husband, some of my most memorable are our first Christmas in a trashy German hotel room above a night club with a mattress on the floor and our only food was an apple and a few peanut butter crackers. Then the Christmas our travels home were halted with frozen roads and the only hotel we could get to. The Christmas we had no money for gifts, so our gift was a lobster we cooked and shared. The Christmas our car broke down, so we pulled over and made out on the side of the road until help arrived.

These are the memorable Christmases. Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the extra to remember what is at the core of Christmas.

I want you to seriously get your hopes up about this Christmas. Tingle with anticipation over how absolutely amazing it can be. Be THRILLED it is here! But I know what most listeners are thinking right now, “I don’t want to get my hopes up”. Why? Because you’re afraid of being disappointed. But here’s what scripture says about hope in Romans 5:5 – “HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT BECAUSE THE LOVE OF GOD HAS BEEN POURED OUT WITHIN OUR HEARTS.”

You don’t want to get your hopes up this Christmas because you don’t want to be disappointed again, but God says HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. God wants you to get your hopes up. He wants you to be excited! Be thrilled.

And there’s a tremendous difference between getting your hopes up and tying strings of expectation. Expectations let us down … hope lifts us up. I can walk into Christmas with my hopes high and my expectations at zero.

Max Lucado explains it like this – He says “Hope is not what you’d expect, it is what you would never dream. It is wild. Hope is not a granted wish or a favor, no it’s far greater than that. It is a wild, crazy dependence on a God who loves to surprise the heck out of us.”

Have we had hope all wrong? Is that why we’re not experiencing the thrill of hope? Hope isn’t a wish coming true. It isn’t a favor. It’s a wild, crazy dependence on this God of ours who just loves to surprise the heck out of us.

Maybe hope isn’t actually something we do, but something we receive, like grace. Hebrews 11:6 says that “God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Is hope that reward? Could the thrill of hope be the reward we receive when we seek him?

Yes, when I seek him in Christmas, I receive hope … not expectations. Hope. And hope does not disappoint because this is the love of God that has been poured out for us.

This Christmas, may you seek him.
May you look for God in all the details.
May you see him in those sweet precious moments that will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
May you see all the little imperfections and be thrilled by the million ways they are actually perfect.
May you experience everything that is good and right in your world and know deep down in your soul it’s the result of grace, mercy and favor of a God who loves you wildly.
May you depend on God as he surprises the heck out of you.
And as you seek him, may you receive your reward … the THRILL OF HOPE.

May you be filled with hope as you celebrate Christmas.
May any area of your life that has felt hopeless be renewed by the power of Jesus Christ.
May every dark corner be lit up.
May relationships be restored.
May healing begin.
May moments be savored.
May you show up and act like the person God created you to be.

Because of that holy night when Christ was born, you and I have the thrill of hope.
This is our reward as we seek him.