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Are You an Advent Hope-Holder?

Dec. 17, 2011


You don't hear a lot about hope these days. Whether it's media gloom and doom or declining economics in your local community or simply conversations with moms in your Mom to Mom group, the evidence is clear: There is more than enough hardship to go around. Somehow it all seems worse at Christmas.

Maybe that's why I've been thinking a great deal about hope lately. It started a few weeks ago when my fellow Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary trustee and friend Leighton Ford shared a sermon he had preached entitled "Hope Holders." (It's also available for reading as an article, which you can download from his website.) In it he alludes to having lunch with a young colleague who made this comment about hope: "Sometimes all you can do is hold hope for someone, until they can take it and hold it for themselves."

Holding hope for someone. The phrase jumped out at me and instantly made me think of Mom to Mom. Isn't that what we are called to do as Titus 2 women? Isn't that what we are called to be for the moms in our groups—hope holders?

Being a hope-holder is especially vital in a world filled with fear and with very little hope. In an essay called "Waiting for God" (in Watch for the Light, p. 27-37), Henri Nouwen points out that one reason we have such difficulty waiting for anything is that we are so filled with fear. Fear of the future can wrap its icy fingers around our hearts and strangle hope.

Part of the reason for this is that we tend to confuse wishes and hopes. We live our lives wishing for things to turn out a certain way—that is, the way we want. Wishing is, in a sense, a way of controlling the future. Whereas hoping goes much deeper. As Nouwen puts it, "Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended." ("Waiting for God," in Watch for the Light, p. 33)

So how do we hold out hope for ourselves and our Mom to Mom moms and the world around us? By pointing them to the God of all Hope. The One Whose Book is filled with words of Hope. The One Who speaks His plans into our uncertain futures, plans to "give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) The One Who meets our fears and failings and weakness with this promise: "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) The One Who knows how to steady us through stormy seas: "…we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:18-19)

What better time than Advent to be a Hope-Holder? As Jesus pierced our dark, cold world with His Light, so began the whole Gospel Drama which is our ultimate hope. Christmas celebrations often provide great opportunities for hope-holding. Some moms seem especially open to hearing the life-giving Gospel at a Christmas brunch. Or during a home visit by a Titus 2 Leader. (Perhaps with a Christmas card accompanied by a food basket, or a gift certificate to a local supermarket, or a donation of one afternoon's babysitting so mom can go shopping unaccompanied.) Such a connection can make the message of hope more real than ever to a discouraged mom.

"The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight," the ancient carol ("O Little Town of Bethlehem") tells us. A timely truth for Christmas 2011, isn't it?

My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that we actually live out the reality of Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Merry Christmas, fellow Hope-Holders!
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