“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever.” –Hebrews 6:19-20
When I was eating lunch at my seminary cafeteria, I had high expectations that the burrito I was about to devour would taste amazing. The burrito smelled and looked good, but it tasted awful. It was so bad that it made me lose my appetite. My friend Ryan, who witnessed the whole scene, told me that I need to set my bar low. He went on to discuss his set-the-bar-low life philosophy, which is to not have high expectations. Whether it is seeing a new movie, going out on a date, or eating a meal, you need to have low expectations in order to secure your happiness. For example, if I set the bar low for the burrito, I would have not been as upset about the nasty taste. On the flip side, if the burrito were delicious, I would have been especially happy because it surpassed my expectations.
Christmas is when God sets the bar high for His creation. Jesus Christ reveals God to us and the standard by which we are to live. The bad news is that the bar is set so high that it is impossible for us to attain it on our own. The Good News, however, is that Jesus Christ is our savior who imparts his righteousness to us. In Jesus Christ, we have already met God’s expectations for us! This is called the gift of grace. Christ Jesus gives it freely to us; we in turn live for Him and place our ultimate hope solely in Him.
Christian hope is having proper expectations in the promises of God, promises that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When our ultimate hope rests in our Savior King, we will become realists. We will not be overly optimistic because we will not be surprised by the chaotic effects of sin and death. We will not be pessimistic either because we will be aware of God’s forgiveness and the victory we have over the grave. Hoping in Jesus Christ gives us proper perspective. It helps us see what is true and enables us to endure through any hardship. Again, as Christians, we do not have our heads buried in the sand. Rather, our hope in Christ causes us to be more in touch with reality.
What is the difference between regular hope and ultimate hope? There is nothing wrong in hoping to have good things like a family, a good career, and health. However, when anything earthly becomes our ultimate hope, the thing without which we cannot be happy, we commit the sin of idolatry. Having our ultimate hope in Jesus Christ will purge the idols that lay dormant within our hearts. Hoping in our risen Savior will align us with God’s will. Only when our ultimate hope is found in Jesus Christ can we hold onto something that will last in this life and the one that is to come. Only when we find ourselves in Jesus Christ can we meet God’s standards of living.
Christmas is a time to remember the one in whom we have our ultimate hope. Jesus is the one who can forgive our past, give our present purpose, and secure our future. Christian hope entails completely depending on Christ: He is worthy of our hope!