As we end Ordinary Time and prepare ourselves for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, it’s good to reflect on the source of our hope—Jesus.
By Robert Regazzoli, GCI pastor in Australia
In the story of Les Miserables, Jean Valjean, upon release from prison, is invited into the residence of a bishop, and given a meal and a room for the night. During the night, Valjean steals some of the silverware and runs away, only to be caught by the gendarmes, who bring him back to the bishop with the stolen items. Rather than bring charges against Jean, the bishop gives him two silver candlesticks, and gives the impression that he had given the other items to him.
Jean Valjean, who had been hardened and cynical as a result of his years in prison for stealing bread to feed his sister’s children, became a changed man because of this act of grace from the bishop. Instead of being sent back to prison, he was able to get on with living an honest life. Instead of a life of doom, he was now given hope. Isn’t this the message we are called to bring to a darkened world?
Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
Who is the source of our hope? It is our Triune God, who gives us eternal encouragement and good hope. The apostle Peter says Jesus is our living hope (1 Peter 1:3-5). Father, Son and Spirit is the source of all love and grace. As we understand this, we are greatly encouraged, and we are given hope now and for the future. This hope, by encouraging and strengthening us, leads us to respond by showing good deeds and words.
As believers in the image of God, we want to leave a positive impression on others in our interpersonal relationships. We want others to feel encouraged, strengthened, and hopeful. Unfortunately, if we don’t focus on the hope that is in Jesus, our interactions can leave others feeling discouraged, unloved, devalued, and without hope. It’s something to really think about in all our human interactions.
Life is very complex at times, and we face some real challenges in relationships, as well as within ourselves. As a parent, giving guidance and training to a child, how do we handle the problems as they arise? Do we prepare in advance by focusing on our relationship with Christ? As an employer, a supervisor, a pastor, an administrator, how do we deal with difficulties with an employee, a volunteer worker, or a member with difficulties? Do we prepare in advance by focusing on their relationship with Christ—or better said—with the truth that they are God’s beloved and therefore valued by him?
It is painful to be on the receiving end of negative statements, put-downs, unfair treatment and hurts. And if we are not focused on the wonderful truth that nothing can separate us from the love and grace of God, we can easily allow the negatives to consume us, and leave us discouraged and unmotivated. Thank God we have hope and can remind others of the hope that is in us and can be in them.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
So what is the reason for the hope that we have? The love and grace of God given to us in Jesus. We live by it. We have been the recipients of his gracious love. By the Father, Jesus Christ loves us and gives us eternal comfort and good hope. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV) It is in the Spirit that we come to understand and believe in the hope that we have in Jesus. It is Peter who reminds us to continually “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
In the musical, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean ends up singing the song, “Who Am I?” The song includes the lyrics: “He gave me hope when hope was gone, He gave me strength to journey on…” One can’t help but wonder if these lyrics were from Paul’s letter to believers in Rome.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
As we end Ordinary Time and prepare ourselves for Advent, the Incarnation and Epiphany, it’s good to reflect on Jesus’ supreme act of love—“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness.”
This is Jesus, who humbled himself to become human and lavishly granted grace to each of us so that we might be filled with his hope.
Jesus Christ is our living hope!