This is my 47th Christmas. The majority of them I struggle to remember much of anything. I look back for moments that have become priceless, and you know what is funny … every memory that stands out are the Christmases that were far from perfect, yet so very memorable.

Think about it … it’s the Christmases that went sideways we remember most. Perfection is over-rated, and likely not on schedule for this year!

Our first Christmas together as a married couple was 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. Memorable.

Then the Christmas our travels home were halted with frozen roads and the kids woke up on Christmas morning in a budget friendly hotel with other stranded travelers. Unforgettable.

The Christmas we had no money for gifts, so our gift was a lobster we cooked and shared. Priceless.

The Christmas we had a crazy food gift exchange and you had to eat whatever you received. One person received sardines in mustard sauce and there was puking involved. Hilarious.

The Christmas our car broke down, so hubby and I pulled over and made out on the side of the road until help arrived. Really unforgettable.

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

Perfection is not on schedule this year. Sis, drop that expectation now.

This Christmas my only wish was to have all 3 of my kids home for the first time in 4 years. We only got 1/3 of the way there. It’s not what I wished for, and maybe you’re facing a Christmas reality that isn’t what you wished for. Well, Christmas doesn’t have to suck for either of us, Sis.

Maybe this isn’t the Christmas you would have chosen. Maybe someone really important is missing this year and their empty seat creates a deep ache within you. Maybe relationships are strained, loved ones aren’t speaking, and half of you are walking around disappointed. Will you still show up as the best version of you? Will you still make the most of this? Will you make memories that will last a lifetime? Will you see the priceless moments as they unfold and savor them as they’re happening?

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.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. Our world is weary after past few years, it’s time to remember the thrill of hope.

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 a 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. And hope comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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.

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 a precious and priceless Christmas? 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.

Get your hopes up about this Christmas. 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. What does disappoint us is EXPECTATION.

And there’s a tremendous difference between having hope 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 is a HOPE FILLED CHRISTMAS. Hope that is a wild and crazy dependence on this God of ours who loves to surprise the heck out of 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.

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