Christmas Eve, 2020 (a bit late)

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This is my third run at writing this post. You’ll notice it’s not Christmas Eve now. It’s Boxing Day night.

I want to offer a word of hope. It’s been a hard year to stay hopeful.

We all prefer when things come easily, but hope becomes more important in direct correlation to how hard hope comes for us. When we call it “hope” but we’re pretty sure everything will go our way, that hope doesn’t need reinforcing. That hope doesn’t save our lives. It likely isn’t the biblical concept of hope, either.

I feel like I’ve lost hope in many things this year. Worse, I’ve lost hope in many people. I’m praying God will change these things in my heart–God is big and pretty good at that stuff, so I have not despaired nor counted these as irretrievable losses.

But for now I am here and I’d be lying to you if I told you that I’m starting this coming year as hopeful, personally, as I started last year.*

Yet good things have happened in my 2020. Against the odds, I have made new friends. A few of them I have seen face to face while many more I have yet to meet in person. But the connections are real and for this I am grateful.

In contrast, I will tell you honestly I want to give up on some people and I’m holding out hope for them solely because God commands me to. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Yet I myself have been loved by people who refuse to stop hoping for me. Friends who would not quit on me or stop praying when I said “don’t bother.” Not many, but a few. Enough.

I’m not going to get emotional here (okay, maybe I will; you’re not going to know unless I tell you) but those few people who help me to hope, who carry some of the hope for me when I can’t, who keep me remembering that the world, as expletived up as it is, makes even less sense without me, I have never appreciated those people more than I do right now. I tell them that, freely and frequently. If 2020 has taken a horrible toll on my hope, it has also severely reduced my taking many things–and especially people–for granted.

When life goes smoothly, we don’t have to hope very hard and we can take most of what we have for granted, without pause or second thought. When we’re forced to think about how precious, fleeting, and uncertain our lives are, we take that long, hard look at who–and what–sustains us and gives us reason to stay alive.

God is faithful. I know that intellectually but often it doesn’t feel true. I want things to go better and I want to measure God’s faithfulness based on God’s making certain that I get reasonably close to my preferred outcomes. But then I have to stop and ask, “Do I have what I need?”

Not ‘Is life as I expect or going the way I have worked to make it go?’

but

“Has God provided as promised and is God still with me?”

When I take things for granted, I get really pissy, especially when I don’t get them. Even when I have much of what I want, I can still get grumpy over small things. I get irritable with God for not providing my preferences. I momentarily forget that what I need and what I want aren’t concentric circles.

I want people to behave differently. I want people to stop being such jerks.** I don’t get to demand that nor act wronged and offended when I don’t get it. Instead, I’m reminded that these are people God loves, people God wants me to love with a love that hopes and endures. Loving them does mean saying “Wrong is right,” or “Jerkiness is cool,” but love hopes all things–including for people who strike me as willfully blind to have their eyes opened and see. The distance between feeling righteously affronted that people won’t behave as I want and holding out hope for their transformation is, literally, the distance between thinking it’s all about me and being focused on another.

God, lead me to pray for people in hope. Give me hope for them, even in my prayers. Forgive me for having taken so much for granted. Thank you for those who have persevered in their love and hope for me. Thank you for friends.

*I’m differentiating between my hopefulness that I have as an individual for people and relationships and my perspective on our broader national situation and politics. That’s a different post.

**I am doing my best to be diplomatic here.

3 thoughts on “Christmas Eve, 2020 (a bit late)

  1. Derek Murphy

    Dear Mike, just read your post on hope after reading Ezekiel 33 +34
    The Watchman and the shepherds.

    God continues in HIS RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF LOST SINNERS while it is day, but a day will come when that pursuit will be over, and on that day it will be found that not one of the redeemed shall be missing, and this because, “JESUS DOES ALL THINGS WELL.”

    Therefore our hope is in nothing less than JESUS BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, we dare not trust the sweetest frame, but must wholely lean on JESUS NAME.

    Yesterday I shared what I was enabled to glean – see below
    —————————-
    “What is wrong with our gatherings?”

    Ezekiel 31 v 7-9
    v7 -“Thus it was beautiful in greatness and in the length of its branches, because its roots reached to abundant waters.”
    v9 – “l made it beautiful.”

    Beauty, greatness, strength, wisdom peace, joy, all things, come from and through, the water of life.

    Ezekiel 47 v 12
    “Because it’s waters flow from the Sanctuary.”

    John 6 V40 – “Everyone who sees THE SON AND BELIEVES.”
    6 v 53 – “Unless you eat the flesh of THE SON OF MAN, and drink HIS BLOOD, you have no life in you.

    We must continuly be feeding on CHRIST.
    “My food is to do the will of the father and to finish HIS WORK.”
    What is the work, how can we ever do it?
    We must see JESUS, and fix our eyes upon HIM, looking full into HIS WONDERFUL FACE.

    “Give me but JESUS, my LORD CRUCIFIED.”
    Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.
    Amen
    —————————
    How silently, how silently
    The wondrous gift is given!
    So God imparts to human hearts
    The blessings of His heaven.
    No ear may hear His coming,
    But in this world of sin,
    Where meek souls will receive him still,
    The dear Christ enters in.

    Praise be to GOD that it is all of GRACE BY FAITH.
    LORD I believe, help thou my unbelief.
    “Turn your eyes to wards JESUS, for with your eyes upon Jesus the fullness of GOD is in view.”
    Check out
    Isaiah 26 v3,4
    Amen

  2. Rhonda Sizemore

    Mike – Having the same thoughts; no answers. But Wendy Wright’s closing comments in her book “Vigil” reminds me of an important truth: “During the Twelve Days we learn once again that the Coming is lived out in the midst of darkness, both personal and communal, and that we are called to walk the paths of peace, aware of the reality of transfigured light in our midst, yet searching ardently to live in the light, sharing our gifts with one another, bringing each other into the fullness promised so long ago.” I am hoping the effort is not invalidated because we struggle to do it and do it ever so imperfectly. Ms. Wright continues: “We continue to wait for the fullness. We watch for the completion of the promise. We keep vigil for the Coming of the unimaginable fruition of the seed growing from the beginning in the heart of God.” Through our tears!

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