At Oasis Church Chicago, one of our core statements that we have operated as a church is simply this: “Jesus: Our Hope.”
This is a powerful statement we proclaim as a church which embodies how we operate as a church family, what we proclaim within our lives and around this city, and why we do what we do. It is all tied around the steadfast, faith-filled knowledge of Jesus being our hope. Jesus being our true hope. The hope that has yet to fail us, and continues to be our constant reminder of God’s love, grace and mercy towards us. That in Jesus being our hope, we have: a confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness to see it through.
When I look at this season, with all that we are facing this year, I want to more than ever to find myself pondering on the goodness of Jesus arriving to this world. What a moment to stop, breathe, and just reflect about the power of that truth! Jesus has come. He came to this earth despite all the world’s rejection of His Father. He came to save us and redeem us back to the Father’s heart. To break the chains of evil and commit to His promises. Hope came to the world.
The birth of Jesus, which was miraculous and overwhelming in itself, gave hope to our world that a Savior was born to bring anyone who calls on the name of Jesus back to Him. That separation of our hearts to our Creator and King could be mended and healed through the hope of Jesus coming. He came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, and set people free from the bounds of sin and death. Hope came. Hope was brought. Jesus came - He came to be the hope of the world.
However, I cannot help but think back to the moment it all happened. What it felt like before Jesus arrived. The moment in which the people of God were waiting for their “hope” to arrive. How did they feel? I am sure they were filled with deep longing and expectation. They had been promised this, and had waited for a long time. In the waiting, how did they speak about it with one another? What were they doing as they waited?
I then think about the moments when the plan was set in motion and “hope” began to fill the earth that the Savior was coming and was fulfilling the promise of old. .
I think to the moment of Mary, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of The Most High. Even at that moment, she wasn’t hoping for a child, but that certainly changed.
"The angel went to her and said,
'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her,
'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'
'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'"
Mary is rattled. She is startled. She is definitely overwhelmed. She doesn’t know how to react and begins to look at all the “circumstances” around her. But something changes. Hope comes.
"The angel answered,
'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.'
'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered.
'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her.”
I believe Mary’s whole spirit changed from hearing the news of carrying a baby - hopelessness - to now knowing she would be carrying the Hope of the World - hope beyond measure!
Mary went from a position of uncertainty to being certain that she was a part of a bigger picture of God’s grace and compassion for humankind. In the faith of knowing this - Mary was filled with hope I have to believe. She hoped for her future, she hoped for her family, she hoped for her friends and community, she hoped for many. She hoped that their lives would be filled with the Savior Jesus and that He would become the Hope of them all. The Son of God was coming to them.
Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the only way that we can lean into hope. Just like Mary, it is a hard shift for us sometimes to go from a level of hopelessness because of what we see or what we hear around us to become people that say “I am the Lord’s servant.” In those bold words, like Mary, we remind our own spirits that we are not hoping in ourselves, but we are dedicated as a servant for the one who is Hope. No matter what is around us, no matter what is asked of us, we can lean into our Father as our hope because what He has for us is “... no Word from God will ever fail.” This is our hope-filled portion. We are not people wandering in hopelessness, but people with the hope of heaven reigning in our spirits. His heaven on earth is among us through the hope of Jesus in our hearts today!
Today - I encourage you to focus and meditate on these scriptures below. To remind your spirit that hopelessness is not our portion. That as we wait before the Lord, we begin to be filled with hope. We begin to be filled with the assurance that God is with us and for us. We begin to look at the hope we carry with the same anticipation that Mary did when she realized what was inside of her. Today, I pray you rest in the hope of Jesus.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
“But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “ Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“Many are saying of me, “ God will not deliver him. “ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”
1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
As a kid, Christmas time in my family was not marked by any major traditions. Sometimes we opted out of the cultural celebration of Christmas altogether, deciding not to exchange many gifts or decorate our home with lights and festive candles. There were a few reasons for this, financial strain being the main one. Aside from some expert level deflecting at the lunch table when kids would share all the things they got over the holidays, Christmas was still a time marked with great hope.
What my family didn’t have in Christmas cheer, they had in a true reverence for Jesus. Christmas in my home was a time of reflection and gratitude, thanking God for the year and His faithfulness. Sometimes we’d choose not to do the traditions of the holiday because we wanted to check our hearts and make sure that our hope was in the promise of Jesus and not in the glamour of new things.
In no way do I denounce Christmas traditions or giving gifts. My family wasn’t holier because of their decision not to engage in holiday festivities - those things are good and represent some beautiful aspects of Jesus’ arrival.
Honestly, I look back on that time and think that while I had a focused view on Christ during Christmas time, I missed a major command of his people. After Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, He appeared to his disciples and he charged them to go and tell the world who he is.
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I picture myself around those same lunch tables, embarrassed to tell people I only received a couple gifts, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I shared that I went to church on Christmas Eve - not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I wanted to worship God for what He’d done by coming to the earth and surrendering His life for mine. How my family gathered on Christmas Day and we prayed together and we praised God for His love for us, and His sovereignty in our lives. How we shared our reflections of the year and set our expectations for what God would do in the year to come.
I wonder what the response would have been. What hope could have been received? I’m sure there would have been some sneers and laughter, some confusion to what I was saying. But there may have been someone curious enough about my celebration of Christmas to ask a question, to ask who Jesus was and why I was excited to celebrate Him instead of receiving an array of gifts. Maybe someone would’ve noticed the hope that I had, not in a new flip phone only a few years aware from obsoletion, but in the eternal saving grace of Jesus.
And yet, I didn’t share those things. I kept it to myself because I was afraid, and there was safety in keeping the hope I had in Jesus to myself. But that is not what we are called to. Jesus tells us to share our hope with the world, so that they may hear and know where they can find true hope. I am not responsible for their response but I’m responsible to Jesus’s call.
Paul speaks about this call in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, he says,
“…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
We as followers of Christ have been entrusted with something so precise, the good news of Jesus. We have nothing to prove to anyone, we’re only asked to surrender our hearts to God and honor him with our devotion.
This Christmas I look forward to getting some new things because new things are nice - can I get an amen - but I also hope for a chance to share that I’m not exchanging gifts because it’s what this time demands of me but rather it’s a symbol of presenting gifts to king Jesus. How I can give and receive because the greatest gift has already been given, and that is where my hope lies.
Are there people you hope to be able to share with this year? Write down their names and pray for them consistently.
Pray for opportunities to share the gospel this Christmas season. Pray for God to embolden you to authentically share where your hope comes from.