Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
—John 14:27, NIV
Christmas: a shining star – a break from the tedious schedules in which we find ourselves. A time to gather and connect with friends and family.
But Christmas is more than a nice diversion – a blip on the radar screen of our hectic lives.
- For a moment in time we escaped drudgery, pressures, anxiety, and uncertainties.
- For a moment in time we humbly knelt before the Christ Child whose birthday we celebrate.
- For a moment in time we laid down our heavy burdens of doubt and fear and unanswered questions and savored the blessings of Christmas.
Now Christmas is over; the torn wrappings stuffed in bags ready for the garbage pickup, bows packed away to use again next year. Visiting families have returned home, and we collapse in an easy chair, take a deep sigh, and try to relax.
We are left with an afterglow of loving moments, age-old songs that brought joy to our spirits and rituals that filled our hearts with special remembrances. An afterglow that brings hope into our hearts, that life doesn’t have to return to the way it was before – the same grind, same routines, same stresses. It is an afterglow that maintains the magical remembrance of those extraordinary Christmas moments.
As I pick up the spiritual gifts I was given — love, joy, and peace — I find another one waiting for me to unwrap and use, that final gift of Christmas: Hope.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
—Philippians 4-11-13, NIV
Hope: the glow that began at Christmas and extends beyond if we are willing to apply it in our lives. It is a gift I cannot refuse because without hope we cannot survive.
We are taking that gift God gave us at Christmas, that infant in the manager, and using it to overcome despair and see the blessings we have.
It is believing that God will be with us through all our troubles and sorrows. When life is at its darkest, God catches us when we fall, supports us when we doubt, and gives us the strength to move forward.
Hope takes those early tentacles of despair and hopelessness, reminds us there is a tomorrow and gives us the willpower to try one more time, or two or three or how many times it takes to reach our goals.
Hope faces the uncertainty of tomorrow and replaces it with an optimism that things will improve. Hope allows us to stop running in circles and helps us identify the problems we face and start looking for realistic, long-term solutions.
Hope engages the spirit so we will put new plans of action in place.
Hope reminds us we are more than past efforts. We are the abilities not yet discovered or explored, the possibilities untried.
Hope reaches out and asks God to give us the strength and courage to go beyond defeat.
My hope for you is that you will take all the wonderful things you have learned and gained this past year and apply them daily next year until they become a part of who you are. Believe in yourself and believe that God is there with you in the dark of the night and the daylight of the morning. Let that hope glow in your heart and burst into flame as you energize your goals.
“O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven, praise and thanks be to you for the night.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Prayer Written in Tegel Prison, Berlin
This was a prayer Dietrick Bonhoeffer wrote when he was in prison during the Second World War. It was a prayer I first read in Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing.
Sometimes the worries of our world make us feel that we are imprisoned, unable to meet the demands forced on us, the time constraints, the worries about loved ones, etc. It is a prayer that we can adapt to our own lives.
May God bless you as you move into the new year.