At no point heading into 2020 was I concerned about running out of toilet paper.
And whether it people taking up baking and buying out all the yeast or emptying sporting goods stores building home gyms, there were many products in high demand this year.
The law of supply and demand tells us the scarcer something is, the more valuable it becomes.
Heading into the last few weeks of the year, it feels like we are all desperate for something in seemingly short supply: hope. If hope were a commodity, its price would be sky-high right now.
Ask yourself this: how many times you have been around someone lately who has said something like ‘I can’t wait for 2020 to be over’? This must be driven by hope that 2021 will bring some relief from the struggle of 2020. At the same time, I think most of us understand that the sun going down on December 31 and rising on January 1 will not magically solve all our woes.
Positive vaccine news and advances in medicine offer a reprieve from the pandemic, which is great news. Because of this, I have hope that life will return to some sense of pre-pandemic normal in 2021. But what if it does not look exactly how I remember it or takes longer than I would like to get there? If my hopes lie solely in an event or specific moment of time and things do not work out as I had anticipated, I will have to deal with the frustration and feelings of being let down.
A Timely Reminder
In the desperate push to close the books on 2020 in hopes of a better 2021, I fear we might miss an opportunity to recapture real hope in the celebration of Christmas. Each year, Christmas marks the entry of a new hope into the world two thousand years ago.
At the time, the people of Israel lived in hope of a coming saviour. Many believed a Messianic king sent by God would redeem the Jewish people from oppressive rulers. Instead, God came into the world as a baby, born in a barn. It is safe to say that those expecting the former would have been disappointed, at least initially.
The Christmas Story runs counter to how most of us would write it if given the chance. It is really a precursor to the life of Jesus. Without knowing the who the Son of God is, we might think that he’d show up and blow away all his enemies and rule the world as an earthly king. Instead, He humbles Himself to be born and placed in an animal’s feeding trough, ultimately offering His life for the sake of others.
Christmas is a reminder to me that I am part of a much bigger story than the story of Sean. While I think it is good to hope for improvements in our current situation, I believe it is more important to have hope that extends beyond the next few months, years, decades, and even beyond my lifetime. When I place myself in the context of the story of all time and trust that God is 1) in charge and 2) good, my hope solidifies and the pain and uncertainty of the current times is less powerful against it. It helps me when things do not go the way I want them to; to know there is a plan and to trust it is a good one.
This Christmas presents a unique opportunity. Normally at this time of year, every night is full of gatherings and outings. The stress to finish shopping something I usually wrestle with until December 23rd or so. In a word, Christmas is busy.
This year, however, much of the busy-ness has been taken away and left us with a much more modest social program.
It is disappointing to not be able to see family and friends in the usual way, but with some added margin there is opportunity to pause, seek meaningful connection, and reflect on the important things right now and for the future.
As I take time to reflect and prepare this Christmas, I am filled with hope. Hope for myself, my family, and for all of us. Yes, there are scary things we are facing and will continue to face, but in seeking a hope that stretches beyond the pandemic or whatever else happens to be causing me worry, I feel less fearful and anxious.
A Defiant Hope
In the face of bad news, disappointment, and fear, it might seem illogical to be hopeful. To be clear, this hope is not a rosy optimism or simply thinking positively.
Hopefulness is an acknowledgement of reality – the challenges, pressures, and struggles we face and all that comes with them – and believing there is goodness that awaits us, both in the struggle and beyond it.
There is a defiance in refusing to let the bad news have the last word. In rejecting the fear and anxiety the world is insistent on pushing upon us, we can create space for an alternative. Living in hope helps me to see the good that his happening all around us, even in relatively dark times. This hope is available and abundant – it is the hope in the bigger story that we are all living in and the belief that the story has a good ending.
In these last days before Christmas, and in those that follow it, I invite you to take a few quiet minutes and join me in looking forward in hope to the good that lies ahead.
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