What do we need as individuals and as a community this Christmas season? What are we lacking that is paramount to our happy and contented existence?

Hope.

Look around you. Think about the world we live in. The world has lost hope.

Look at the young people in our community. Countless times I have heard teenagers utter their hopelessness for their futures. They haven’t been guided and urged to have hope, so they can’t see beyond their current circumstances or problems. They don’t see that the world is just waiting to be seized by them so they can fulfill all their dreams. They have lost hope.

Look at the workers and families and couples who are drowning in debt and see no way out. They have lost hope that they can have a financially peaceful life. They no longer believe that they can live a life that doesn’t revolve around working or making money. They no longer spend time together as a family. They don’t enjoy each other. They’re always in a hurry or distracted or stressed. Something is missing.

Look at the elderly who suffer a declining quality of life. They have lost hope for happiness, or family visits, or physical comfort. They have seen so many years pass by and maybe they have encountered more than their share of hard times. Maybe they are alone. They’re tired, and their hope is waning, if not completely gone.

Watch TV. Watch the news. Read the newspaper. The world is in such turmoil and morality and values are at an all-time low. People have lost hope in living in a world of peace, a world without dissention or anger, a world where people treat each other with civility and respect.

What about you? When you think about the Christmas season, do you find yourself constantly worrying about gifts and money and rushing around and getting everything done?

Our day-to-day responsibilities tend to increase during the Christmas season and we become distracted by entertaining, shopping and decorating. We think that all of these activities will allow us to have a perfect Christmas.

But that is an unfortunate lie.

We hold the key to enjoying the Christmas season.

As Christians, our hope comes with the reminder that God’s own son took human form as a small baby, grew through childhood and into adulthood, and then sacrificed himself for all humankind. He was a small baby destined to die on the cross for our sins from the moment he took his first breath. Our hope is in that little baby who entered this world in the most humble of circumstances.

Even if we don’t realize it, we want a deeper hope. Instead of focusing on presents and parties, let’s try to spread hope this Christmas season. As we share hope, our hope will be increased, as well.

Take a moment and think of three things you want to do differently, substituting things that bring renewed hope and faith, rather than depleting your energy and bank accounts.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, examples include:

  • Spending a morning having coffee and devotion with someone for whom you’ve not made time lately, instead of spending all day shopping for the perfect gifts.
  • Or, instead of spending the day taking your kids shopping for gifts, show them how special homemade gifts can be, or take them to sing carols at the nursing home.

There are so many different things we can do to shift our focus from a materialized Christmas to one that shares and spreads the hope of that little baby in the manger.

The main idea here is to remember hope is real. Hope is possible. When the world seems the most hopeless and our circumstances suck all of hope out of our lives, remember we have reason to hope. We have reason to be joyful.

Jesus loves us, and he entered this world as a baby, endured the temptations of the world, devoted his life to serving and spreading the Gospel, and then suffered beatings and crucifixion, taking our sins as his own burden on the cross.

That’s reason to hope.

This Advent season, be focused on a life-giving Christmas. Make a decision to share your hope. Encourage and build others up, so they can be filled with an unmistakable sense of hope for their own futures.

Do not be discouraged. Don’t let anything get you down. Rest and do not be stressed. Have hope…life-giving hope.