Yes, I’m one of those people who puts up an artificial tree. If you’re a Never-Faker, Only-a-Real-Tree-Will-Do type of person, don’t judge me. When I put up my tree this year, dangling from one of the fake-snow covered branches was an ornament leftover from last year. It spelled out "hope".
I put up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving because…. well, why not? I notice others are doing the same thing. While Thanksgiving signifies thankfulness for what God’s done in the past, Christmas gives us hope. And this year, we all need a huge dose of hope.
In my hopefulness, I feel like Ralphie from the Christmas Story. You remember Ralphie; he’s the kid who wanted the Red Rider BB gun for Christmas. But everyone---his mother, his teacher, the department store Santa---frowned, shook their heads, and snickered, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Well, my dearest desire is to spend Christmas with those I love …. just like I used to. But from every corner I hear the warnings: “You’ll spread the virus.” But I miss the things that gave me joy: having the family home for the holidays (because you know, There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays), singing Christmas carols, worshiping with my choir, having the family travel over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.
I know it’s wise to be realistic, but I’m not ashamed of feeling hopeful. Though we’ve all had a rough year in 2020, I’m confident God is using our difficulties to help us develop character. That feeling of hopefulness comes from God, and we need to hang on to it.
"But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)
When all seemed lost for Ralphie, when Christmas morning had come and gone and he hadn’t received the gift he desperately wished for, there in the corner was one last surprise: A Red Rider Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model air rifle.
So I’m holding on to hope and waiting to see what wonderous surprises God has wrapped up and waiting for all of us.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12 (NIV)