Each day during this year's Advent season, I will be sharing a devotional here to help aid our hearts in preparing for the coming of Christ. These come from a book entitled "Come, Let Us Adore Him" by Paul Tripp. I pray that these thoughts will aid your heart in worship.
The incarnation tells you who God is (perfectly holy, bountifully loving) and who you are (sinful, unable to escape). Believing both = hope.
Because we are made in God’s image, we are hardwired for hope. You and I are always putting our hope in something. If you listen, you will realize that we communicate with the language of hope all the time.
“I sure hope it doesn’t rain today.”
“I hope she isn’t mad at me.”
“I hope I can do what I promised.”
“I hope they win the championship.”
“I hope they can get along for once.”
“I hope this sickness isn’t something serious.”
“I hope when I get home, there will be something to eat.”
“I hope I can do something worthwhile with my life.”
“I hope what I’ve believed proves to be true.”
I am persuaded that the language of hope is on our lips so much because we live in a world where hope seems temporary or is often dashed. In our work, in our families, as citizens, and in our own personal lives we all deal with so much broken hope. It’s not unusual for the thing in which we willingly placed our hope to fail us. In fact, we get to the place where we’re afraid to hope anymore, because we’re sure we’ll be disappointed once again. But we can’t stop hoping, because God created our lives to be propelled and directed by hope, and he meant our capacity for hope to drive us to him.
Here’s one of the things that I love about the Advent season and the Christmas story. If you look and listen carefully, this season will remind you where true hope is to be found. That freshly cut Christmas tree, with its beautiful pine aroma, should remind you that you can’t put your hope in created things. Like everything in creation, the beauty of that tree will fade. It’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself dragging a dry tree to the curb, leaving a trail of dried-out pine needles behind you. People you celebrate with can’t be your source of hope either because, if you know them well, you know they are weak and needy just like you. Even holiday joy can’t deliver, because we all know that when the season is over, we all return to the realities of the world we live in.
Here’s the best way to say it: the Christmas story reminds us that hope will never be found if you look horizontally. True hope is found only when you look for it vertically. It’s not enough to say that God gives us hope. What the Christmas story declares to us is that God is hope. And that hope is attached to two glorious aspects of his character. First, God is perfectly holy in every way. It is the holiness of God that causes him to be angrily intolerant of sin. Now, I want you to think about God’s anger. You could argue that God’s anger is the hope of the universe. If God weren’t angry about sin, there would have been no cross and no hope of salvation for sinners. You would not want to live in a world where the one ruling the world was incapable of righteous anger. God’s anger with sin is a product of his holiness.
But there is more. God is not just perfectly holy, he is also bountifully loving. Because he is bountiful in love, God’s anger with sin didn’t cause him to wipe out sinful humanity forever, but to lovingly gift us with his Son to provide rescue, forgiveness, transformation, and ultimately deliverance. Jesus came to die, and it is on the cross of his death that the Father’s holy anger and his bountiful love meet in a violent moment of righteous judgment and gracious redemption. God is your only source for steady, unshakeable, eternal hope. His holiness is your hope. His love is your hope. He is angry at what is destroying us, and in love he rescues us. The Christmas story preaches to us both the holiness and the love of God.
I have been arguing that true hope is only ever found vertically, but there is something I need to add. True hope won’t be found without looking within yourself. You may be thinking, “How can I be to myself the hope that I need? Isn’t that contradictory?” Well, if true hope is found in understanding who God is, the pathway to that hope is found in admitting who we are. You will never seek the vertical hope that only God can give if you don’t first confess that you are a sinner. It’s only when you humbly admit that you present empirical evidence every day that you have a wandering and rebellious heart that you will reach out for God’s forgiveness and his transforming power. But you must admit to something else; you must admit that you have no ability on your own to escape. To say that you’re a sinner is not just to confess to some wrong behaviors, but also to admit that you have a condition. Sin is a condition of your nature, and because it is, you can’t escape it. You have no ability to run from yourself. The Christmas story confronts us with our inability, because if we had any ability whatsoever to save ourselves from sin, the birth of Jesus would not have been necessary.
The Christmas story reminds us that hopelessness is the only doorway to true and eternal hope. It’s only when you give up on you that you seek and celebrate what God, in holy love, offers you in the person and work of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s true that hope isn’t a thing; it’s a person, and his name is Immanuel. Celebrate hope this Christmas.
For further study: Romans 5:1–5