Tension and Twinkle Lights 

The tension in my neck and shoulders has been so constant the past several months that my body seems to have grown accustomed to it. It is as if this tightness, this ache, has always and will always be a part of me now. This tossing and turning at night is my new normal. Do you feel it too? The tension? The heaviness? 

The world seems to be breaking under the pressure of darkness. I see it on social media. I see it in the eyes above the masks at the grocery store. I see it in the empty seats on Sunday mornings. This global pandemic has revealed how close to the surface fear and anger have been hovering in our hearts. It’s as if the enemy has been strategically planning the virus, the lack of control, the riots, the high-stakes election, all in order to scatter and divide us against one another. And in our isolation, we have forgotten the humanity of our neighbors. We have forgotten what it means to serve selflessly. We are ready to demonize anyone who threatens our worldview. 

But something shifted last month. A seemingly silly trend began in November with people putting up their Christmas decorations early. Their defensive reasoning for breaking the traditional “rule” of no decorating until after Thanksgiving was, “We need the cheer this year. 2020 made me do it.” 

We are all craving hope. 

Something about twinkle lights and evergreen trees and jingle bells stirs up this light within us. This burning ember of goodness and joy. The jazzy playlists and cozy sweaters bring a smile to our hardened frowns. Children filled with anticipation remind us of the delight of actually looking forward to something again. Christmas brings hope. 

I think of the Israelites 2000 years ago. They had been waiting 400 years to hear from God. They memorized the Scriptures prophesying a promised Messiah. A Messiah who would free them, save them, rescue them. The oppression weighed on their shoulders, heavier with each passing year. Where was this Messiah? Had God forgotten them? Were His promises true? How long, oh Lord? 

Can you imagine a time more desperate for hope? 

And then, of course, because our God is good and true to His word, Jesus came. He emptied Himself of His God-ness and became like man. Immanuel, God with us. He came humbly. And He rescued the Israelites from something they didn’t even realize they were bound to: their own hearts. His great rescue was drastically different than what was expected. It did not change the immediate circumstances. It did not throw off the oppressors. It did not elevate God’s chosen people to a place of power and glory. No, instead, Jesus’ great rescue planted hope in hearts and bridged the gap between man’s brokenness and God’s holiness. 

This rescue, this coming of the Messiah, has become the season of perpetual hope as it is remembered year after year and century after century. Hope planted right in the middle of winter in the western world. Hope that life will come from the death around us. Hope that a good and holy God will pursue us relentlessly. 

Romans 5:1b-3 says, “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” 

Our hope cannot be diminished by a global pandemic. It cannot be taken away based on who holds power in our government. It cannot be robbed by sickness and death. Our hope is not in this world being free of pain. Our hope is in the glory of God. His goodness and compassion exist outside of circumstances. His mercy and majesty transcend all human power. Hoping in God’s glory will not end in disappointment because His glory is unchanging and unending.

How does this untouchable hope change the way you interact with a hopeless world? Twinkle lights and Amy Grant Christmas albums may soothe our weary souls for a moment, but this season will end and the world will keep spinning. How can we bring that burning ember of relentless hope into a hurting and desperate world? 

After rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God, Paul goes on to say in Romans 5:3-5, “Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  

Endurance

Character

Hope

Love

As we suffer, the world is watching. Church, we are under great scrutiny right now. How will we respond to suffering? How will Christ-followers engage in what oftentimes feels like hopeless circumstances? It seems our current American culture is ready to blame, shame, and condemn one another now more than ever before. Fear of the unknown can lead us to respond to the slightest offense with either reclusiveness or rage. Yet we are called to display endurance, character, hope, and love. And we are equipped for that calling by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

Let’s show a hurting world what it looks like to hope in the glory of God. May we show up with joy when it doesn’t make sense. May we bring a presence of peace to the barista behind the counter and the person six feet apart from us in line. May we stand so firmly in hope that when our world is threatened we don’t fear, but turn our eyes up to a good Father and say, “I rejoice in this suffering, for the good of others and for Your glory.” 

Hope is our comfort. Hope is our weapon against despair. Hope is the fulfilled promise of God. 

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Jen Hulbert

About Jen Hulbert

Jen Hulbert lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and favorite coffee date, Aaron. They serve together at Calvary Bible Church, where Aaron is the lead pastor. She homeschools her three boys and loves sharing the beauty of God’s creation with them by hiking the trails of the northern Arizona forest. Jen met Jesus at a young age, and as she gets to know Him better, discovers more of who she was intended to be. Creating the perfect playlist, well-timed puns, and all forms of organizing and categorizing are a few of her favorite things.

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