Advent: A Thrill of Hope

HopeA thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

A chill ran through my body as I sang this line from a long-loved song.  In this season, which has been marked by heaviness, my heart captured a glimpse of the hope Jesus brings.

Last week I attended a Christmas service at my friend’s church.  It was a lovely service, but I was surprised by the line that stood out to me as we sang “O Holy Night”.  Typically, I am brought to tears by the line “chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression shall cease.”   That night, a line I’ve sung hundreds of times took on new significance: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”  It captured both the grief I’ve carried lately, while also looking expectantly, hopefully towards our Savior.  It acknowledged in the tension that I feel on a daily basis.  Because, underneath all of my heaviness this year, my heart is longing for Jesus, longing for the hope he brings.  I feel the weariness deep in my bones, and even a glimpse of Him would awaken my heart.

But what does it mean to have a “thrill of hope”?

These are the moments when our hearts are overwhelmed by a sense of hope, joy, and love that is inexplicable.  It cannot be quantified, contained, or explained.  It just is.  And our hearts thrill, catching a deeper glimpse of God’s glory and goodness.

Here’s the tricky bit with thrills of hope.  We cannot create those moments ourselves.  We as humans are not ultimately capable of putting together just the right song, with just the right tinsel at just the right moment to create that overwhelming sense of wonder, joy, and hope.  Only Jesus can do that.  He is the one who brings hope.  Yet, so many of my celebrations of Christmases past have been partial attempts to stir up this hope.  As if I am capable of creating these experiences by myself.

As I see this tendency in me, the immediate temptation is to swing to the opposite side of the spectrum, putting off anything thing that reeks of Christmas.  However, I think the real call is for a shift in the heart.  We continue to engage in Christmas activities, yet we acknowledge that they will not bring us full joy in and of themselves.  We also see that God can use these Christmas traditions to remind us of the hope we do have and the truth that he is present with us at every moment.

So, we slowly open our hands and let the Spirit do what he’s going to do.

We celebrate Christmas to the extent that we can and we delight in the moments when God thrills our hearts, once again.

Reflection Questions

-When was the last time you experienced a thrill of hope?  Take a moment to thank the Lord for that moment.

-If you feel led, take a moment to pause and surrender your experience of Christmas to the Lord.  Invite him to work and move as he chooses.

-Finish by reading Luke 2:8-11.  In the midst of your last bits of Christmas preparations, let this passage bring you back to the true gift we have received: Immanuel, God with us.

Luke 2:8-11 (ESV)

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

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