In this Christmas season, please allow me to give you my Christmas wishes by posting an edited version of what I wrote for our congregational Advent devotional booklet at Yates Baptist Church in Durham, NC, USA in 2013:
“. . . we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” [Titus 2: 13-14. NIV]
I first came to live in North Carolina from Washington State in 2007 as I started a new job in Durham. I arrived with our furniture in a large U-Haul truck, while my wife Judy remained behind in Washington to sell our house out in the country. With no furniture in the house, Judy moved in with her mother in town nearby, while I lived with our son in Raleigh. So there we were. I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Judy was 3,000 miles away in Washington State. Our hope was that we would quickly sell our country house that had a small river running alongside the property. A family with six children under the age of ten wanted to buy it, but they couldn’t quite come up with the financing. It would have been a great place to raise six children. However, it continued on the market without being sold.
Then the 500-year flood hit. Eleven inches of rain fell in twenty-four hours. When the flooding in town eased, Judy drove to the house to check on it. From the top of a hill overlooking the valley, all she saw was devastation and thought the house had to be gone. However, when Judy was able to reach the house two days later, she found the house itself was fine except that the flood waters had rushed into the basement with six feet of water and muck. The two bedrooms and the family room were ruined.
Now God’s work: The house was empty of our possessions, so we didn’t lose any of that. What if that family with all those young children were living there at the time? It would have been pitch black with water swirling around and gushing into the basement, not knowing how high the water was going to get. But they weren’t there as they weren’t able to buy the house, as you’ll recall. God was taking care of them as well.
At any rate, volunteers descended on the valley from as far as several hundred miles away. Judy, daughter Alicia and her husband, their friends, Judy’s younger brother and cousins mucked out the basement [a term for removing sloppy, wet mud]. Then two volunteers from the church arrived and re-installed the basement rooms. Praise the Lord for volunteers who go to disaster areas to help the people who have suffered tragic loss.
Several months later, Judy’s mother had a stroke. If Judy hadn’t been living there, medical attention would have been long delayed. As it was, her mother fully recovered after physical therapy. THEN we sold our house for what we had put into it. Judy’s mother also sold her house and moved into a senior living community, so she was taken care of. Judy and I were finally re-united eleven months after I left.
The concept of “hope” in the Bible is different than how we often use it. We hope that a medical test will show we are healthy. We hope that a loved one will return from a trip safely. In our case, Judy and I hoped that we would sell the house and be reunited sometime soon. We use “hope” to indicate something we would like to see happen but that has a possibility of not happening.
“Hope” in the Bible, on the other hand, relates to an event or circumstance that has yet to happen but that one can absolutely count on it coming to fruition. Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, was born 2,000 years ago. And we can expect him to come again in power and glory. That is our hope. And we can count on it until that time comes.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” [Hebrews 11: 1. NIV]