Grabbing a hold of hope during the holidays might seem like a daunting endeavor. We are easily distracted by the trappings of gifts, tasks to be checked off our list, and social gatherings that zap our energy. We find ourselves discouraged by complicated relationships, distressing financial concerns, or the darkness of loss.
The struggles and sorrows of the Christmas season pose a threat to its sentiment. We know that Christ’s birth is meant to be the centerpiece of our celebration, and yet we feel deeply our inability to conjure up a hope-filled perspective. Our hearts long for more, whether rattling loudly with frustration or buzzing under the surface with anxiety.
In Isaiah 40:1-2, the prophet points our desperate gaze to where it will ultimately find comfort. He calls us to look toward the only One who can provide what we need to settle our souls. Isaiah cites three reasons why we can be comforted as we focus our sights on Christ.
- We are freed from the oppression and captivity of sin.
Christ’s birth came in the darkness and filth of where animals were housed, quite a dis-comforting space. The “forced labor” of living as frail humans in a fallen world does not have the final word. How astounding it is to see the shadows and sorrows of our lives, and know that this Jesus was born to set his people free!
- Our iniquity has been pardoned.
Our shame has been dismantled and our identity is no longer defined by sin. The arrival of Jesus signified a declaration from God that releases us from all fear and condemnation. Psalm 103:3-5 offers a meaningful reflection on how Christ’s birth ushered in abundant mercy. By repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we no longer face the sentence we deserve. Instead, we are proclaimed not guilty!
- He forgives
- He heals
- He redeems
- He crowns
- He satisfies
- We have received double from the Lord.
Jesus came into a place marked by brokenness, not only as an expression of mercy but offering us a life in which we can intimately know and experience God’s faithful love. It would have been a merciful provision to simply provide a way of reconciliation, but God, in his kindness, has invited us to receive far more than that. He is the God of all comfort, both in sending his Son to fulfill the promise of a Messiah, and in giving us his eternal presence of joy to fill our longing hearts.
Hope requires much waiting, for how would we know what hope is if we had no awareness of our longing? We know that all is not right in the world and within ourselves. We see that sickness and suffering surround us, wars rage on, and relationships remain fractured. If you find yourself wondering how to reconcile these distressing realities with your longing, look up. Take comfort in Jesus, the One who arrived as a dependent infant but will return as our triumphant King.
For additional reflection:
- Read Psalm 103 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, meditating on the shared theme of comfort.
- Listen to the song, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.
Melissa Affolter has served in various aspects of counseling and discipleship ministries for nearly twenty years in the local church.