This is another post that looks at how parts of the EFCA are celebrating Christmas. This comes from The Bridge Montrose’s Andy Dong in Houston, Texas and is called “The Invisible Hope.” Its another way of looking at the Christmas season.
“Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isiah 9:6 ESV
Zoo Lights Display at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
There is another Christmas post that I would like to add that features how some parts of the EFCA are celebrating or remembering Christmas in the year 2020. Andy Dong leads a house church affiliated with The Bridge Montrose in Houston, Texas. This is what Andy Dong reflected on for Advent in anticipation of Christmas. If you want to read the original post you can do so in, “Invisible, the Hope grows.”
This year has felt like one long, dark, hopeless night. Nothing is right. Nothing is clear. Nothing is certain. There is no guaranteed cure. There is no guaranteed justice. There is no clear end in sight. What keeps us going in the face of this monstrosity of a crisis?
In the blackness of this night, one of my favorite musicians, John Mark McMillan, has reminded me of something so dangerously powerful: “Invisible, the Hope grows in the black where nobody knows; we smile in the mystery, in the night where nobody sees.” Truly, there is so much unknown that both the present & future seem like a pitch-black night. But in the midst of this night, hope can be the one thing that carries us through, giving us some semblance of comfort. Even in the throes of a deep & dark despair, a strong hope can propel us forward; it can bring joy into our hearts, minds, and eyes; it can give us reason to keep living.
However, hope is something that is often difficult to grab a hold of. After looking at a few definitions of hope, I noticed a few words that came up repeatedly, as well as a phrase that stood out: desire, belief, expectation, and “to want something to be true.” Hope implies a current absence of something desirable or even necessary. But in that same vein, hope implies the possibility of someday attaining that same desirable/necessary thing.
What do we actually hope for, especially in this year of such chaos & despair? We hope for healing. We hope for safety. We hope for justice. We hope for closeness to one another. What gives us the ability to hope for these things, especially with everything that has & is happening? Where can we find this hope? Or more appropriately, from whom can we receive this hope?
Time for one of the three Sunday school answers: Jesus. Jesus is & gives the greatest hope we could ever ask for. In Him are the eternal, irreversible promises of love, joy, peace, comfort, healing, freedom, and justice. His return to Earth will ultimately result in the total eradication of everything that gives cause for pain & grief.
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” Romans 5:3-5
The Advent season is meant to turn our eyes simultaneously toward the past & the future. Looking back into the past, we recall how God Himself became a baby and came to earth in the most humble of places, all to eventually die & resurrect on our behalf. Looking forward into the future, we anticipate that same God coming back again to right every wrong, heal every wound, and permanently defeat all that is evil. The future aspect of Advent is so beautifully relevant to our present hunger for hope.
In this Advent season, as we affix our eyes upon Jesus – God as a human, and first a newborn baby – we are invited to lay all of our worries, needs, and aches at His feet. We are invited to get caught up in the hope of His second coming, a hope so profoundly powerful that it can grab a hold of us even when we lack the strength to hold onto it for ourselves. The Hope of Jesus is needed & wanted; planned & promised; long-awaited & longed-for; and finally, delivered & held. Even in the blackness of this night, we can smile as we thank God for the invisible Hope He grows for us.