And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:5 NIV 1984
I love Christmas. It’s always been my very favorite time of year.
Don’t get me wrong. If we’re talking about weather, summer wins. No question. Warm breezes, cookouts, and sunshine beat the gray winter doldrums any day.
But Christmas to me was never about the weather. It was about the feeling.
Do you know the one I’m talking about? My mother called it sugarplums. Every year the onset of Christmas carols, decorated trees, holiday smells, and overflowing trays of Christmas cookies brought inevitable excitement.
Anticipation built with each opened door on the advent calendar. Finally on the night of December 24th, I would lose the ability to sleep altogether.
I wish I could tell you that my childhood excitement over Christmas was rooted in something spiritual. It wasn’t. Although I marveled at the wonders surrounding Jesus’ Bethlehem story, it would be years before I understood its profound significance and opened the gift God gave me in His Son.
No, my childhood Christmas sugarplums came from the presents.
You see, for the 12 long months from one December 25th to the next, my brothers and I would hear one thing from my parents in response to asking for things we wanted. “Maybe. Put it on your Christmas list.”
So we did.
Then we’d wait. And we’d hope. And as the big day drew near, we’d wonder what treasures might actually appear beneath the Christmas tree.
Do you remember what it feels like to hope, beloved?
At some point, even if only for a few brief moments of childhood abandon, all of us have allowed the glimmer of possibility to stir our hearts.
And that stirring kindled anticipation. Perhaps that hope even inspired a step of faith.
You bought that lottery ticket.
You went after that promotion.
You opened your heart to love.
Then you waited and watched. And hoped. And you didn’t get the outcome you desired.
Unfortunately, in a world with very few guarantees, we often end up disappointed. And many of us have discovered first-hand that Proverbs 13:12 proves true.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
And so stories of a child Savior born in a stable with the power to redeem your life seem a bit farfetched. You can appreciate the sentimental wonder of the story, but you dare not open your heart to really believe Him for His promises.
Or maybe Jesus Himself seems to have disappointed you.
Yet Romans 5:5 makes a bold claim.
And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Beloved, biblical hope does not disappoint. But we must pay careful attention to what scripture links that hope to: love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
You see, we can seek Jesus for His power. We can associate ourselves with His name to try to garner His blessing. But if we pass love by, hope in His name holds no guarantee.
The baby born in Bethlehem wasn’t the means to access God’s gifts. He is the gift.
But we can’t just stand next to Him in church on Sunday. We don’t step into His power by singing songs about Him. We’ll never find healing by owning a Bible we never open.
Love alone releases the blessings of heaven into this broken, troubled world. Love remains the only catalyst to release them in you.
And so the manger offers an incredible hope. Transforming love. Love that must first be encountered, trusted, and received. Love that can then pour out. And change the circumstances of earth.
That’s better than any shiny present under the tree.
Whatever your association with Jesus has been, beloved, will you take a chance on love? Will you open the door to your heart and invite Jesus to reveal Himself? His Spirit wants to write His Word upon your heart and transform you from the inside.
Make sure you open the gift, dear one. It costs you nothing but time and gains everything.
And it’s guaranteed not to disappoint.