It’s that time of year again. Decorative signs, advertisements, and commercials encourage us with the familiar messages:
“A Season of Hope”
At first glance these tidings may warm our hearts as we go about our way, humming Christmas music as we shop. Yet, as I stop to reflect upon these phrases, I wonder, What exactly do they mean? Each of these statements is missing an essential element - the object of one’s belief, faith or hope.
One could read these messages and easily interpret that we are to “Just believe in Santa” or “Have faith in the goodness of mankind” or this is “A season of hope” because we are looking forward to lovely times with families or gifts around the tree.
Understood in this way, these messages fall flat and bring little encouragement. Believing in Santa can be somewhat unsettling when you consider the songs we sing about him:
He's making a list
And checking it twice
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
Isn’t it rather sobering to consider a large bearded man, dressed all in red velvet and smoking a pipe, keeping watch over us to see whether we’ve been good enough? Such a Jolly Old Elf’s works-based righteousness might be more cause for fear and trembling than happiness and joy.
The same is true as we consider placing our faith in mankind or hoping in family gatherings. As we look around our world, terrorism, racism, greed, discord, and disease dominate the news. We are a human race plagued with many struggles, and often these show up in our own families. And, it’s not just the world “out there”, but also the person I look at in the mirror that causes me to pause before placing my faith in mankind or hoping in perfect family gatherings.
These phrases are problematic because they are incomplete. It’s not enough to simply be a hopeful person or be full of faith. It’s essential for us to consider exactly where we are placing our belief, faith, and hope. The object of our faith is the essential substance of it. When we loose sight of the actual meaning of our faith, then we lose the very thing that is able to sustain it.
The joy of the Christmas message is so much richer, deeper, and more beautiful than any other story that has ever been told. Glory was wrapped in flesh and dwelt among us, so that we could be wrapped in righteousness and dwell with God. Jesus lived a perfect life so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for all that is wrong both in our own lives and in the world.
Without Jesus our belief has no merit, our faith has no basis, and hope has no anchor. In Jesus, we find the joy of believing. In Jesus, we find the substance of our faith. In Jesus, we know this to be a season of hope.
As I rush to and fro, I hope to hear songs reminding me of the object of my faith. I want to be humming about Jesus, singing the gospel to myself and others:
God rest ye merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember, Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas day.
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of Comfort and joy!
These are the true tidings of comfort and joy: Believe in Jesus. Have Faith in Jesus. Hope in Jesus. The object of our faith is the substance of our joy.
Melissa Kruger serves as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband Mike is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. You can follow her on Twitter @MelissaBKruger.