“Tis the season!” What comes to mind when you hear that phrase? Maybe the song “Deck the Halls” pops into your head – tis the season to be jolly…or maybe not.

While the Christmas season certainly can be one of joy and peace, fun and laughter, it can also be a time of sadness and disappointment. The child you love so much isn’t coming home. You’ve prayed for healing and it hasn’t happened. You may be dreading all of the stress that you know the holiday season will bring. Or perhaps this season is a mix of all of these things.

Hoping and Wishing

As human beings living this world of ours, we will experience suffering and struggle. It’s guaranteed. Really hopeful, right? But there IS hope! The key is not to put our hope in other people or in things – when we do that, we’re really just wishing. You see, the words hope and wish are sometimes used interchangeably, but they don’t really have the same meaning.

One dictionary defines hope in this way: To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future. Another one defines hope as desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment.

The definition for wish is to have a desire for something (such as something unattainable.) While they may appear similar since they both involve desire, the difference comes in how that desire is viewed; one as a desire for something unattainable and one a desire for something that is expected to happen. That expectation is what makes all the difference.

Hope Beyond Hope

In Romans 4:18, Paul speaks of Abraham and the hope he had in God. “Even when there was no reason to hope, Abraham kept hoping – believing that he would be the father of many nations. For God had said to him, ‘That’s how many descendants you will have!’” Despite the fact that it seemed impossible, Abraham had hope that God would do what he said, and he did!

That’s the kind of hope we need to choose as well. Trust that God has a plan for your life – a plan for your good – and have the expectation that he will fulfill his promises. Pray with hope, expecting and believing that he will answer. While the answer may not come in a way that we prefer, we can have hope and believe that he is with us no matter what. And it’s not just hope that we have for this life, it’s hope for eternity. In 1 Timothy 1:1, Paul says that Jesus Christ gives us hope. We don’t have to wish that one day we’ll get to go to heaven. We hope and expect it to happen because of Jesus’ death on the cross.

And that couldn’t have happened without his birth, which is the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas.

My prayer for us all this Christmas season is that we will discover anew the hope that is found in Jesus.