Let’s go ahead and get this part out of the way. 2020 has been hard. Yes, I’m a pastor and I still feel like I can say it! This has been the hardest year for many, if not every single one of us. It has been a year full of loss (both big and small), hurting, violence, division, slander, job loss, mental health issues, all of which eventually can lead to a feeling of hopelessness.
Feeling hopeless is the worst place to be. Without hope, what is there to look forward to? Where is the “silver lining” in pain and sorrow, if there is no hope?
I think the temptation for us today is to believe we are the only ones in human history who have ever felt this way. Sure, we know history is real and there have been devastating stories in the past of times of war, famine, disease but those things are so long ago that we remove every other experience from this current moment. We are tempted to believe that 2020 is a level of darkness and despair that no other humans can fully relate with.
** Enter, the Bible **
If you look at the history of the Christian faith, there are times in our story that equate, if not are even worse, than the current moment we are in. Our faith is not a story of comfort and ease, rather a story of hardship and suffering. BUT, our faith is also a story of great hope amidst the hardships and suffering.
Isaiah in the Old Testament can relate with the pain and suffering of our day.
In Isaiah 8, God tells the prophet Isaiah that Israel (God’s people) will be conquered by an enemy force. Talk about hardships and suffering! God’s people were about to lose their freedom, stability, and definitely their comfort.
It is the darkness and despair of ch. 8 that makes ch. 9 so much more glorious and beautiful.
“That time of darkness and despair will not go on forever” (Isa. 9:1), the prophet Isaiah wrote,
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine!” (Isa. 9:2, emphasis added).
In the middle of one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history, God promised a great light will shine.
What is that great light?
Let’s pick up in verse 6:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The great light that will shine in the middle of the deep darkness Israel is facing, is the Messiah!
Savior, Anointed One, Lord, Redeemer, Victorious One.. JESUS.
In the middle of darkness and despair, God promised Israel a Savior.
God promised a great light that would pierce the darkness.
God promised hope amidst the hopelessness.
God promised peace that transcends circumstances.
The same God that offered hope to a hopeless Israel, is the same God that offers hope to a hopeless 2020.
No matter where you find yourself this year, I promise you that God has NOT forgotten you.
In fact, I believe the very opposite.
God is chasing after you.
What if 2020 is part of God’s cosmic plan to show you that He is enough?
Look, I am not saying that every painful moment is directly given us from God.
But what I am saying, is that God can use uncomfortable moments, he can use darkness and despair, to reveal to us the things that we are hoping in that are not God.
God wants to be your hope this year.
One of the greatest gifts of this time of year is the season of Advent.
Advent can be defined as:
“The traditional celebration of the first arrival of Jesus in humility and the anxious awaiting His second arrival in glory.” (taken from the Village Church Advent guide)
Every year, Christians are offered an invitation to slow down and remember the story of our faith. That Jesus did not come to a world already full of hope and peace, rather he brought hope and peace to a dark and desperate world.
Advent is our opportunity (over the next few weeks) to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. How much sweeter and more real Christmas Day will be if we prepare our hearts for the celebration of remembering the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us! The very God of the universe put on flesh, entered into our mess, to show us that he is a God that is near to the brokenhearted.
So, friend, my hope for you this Christmas is for you to take time to remember:
Remember that God has not forgotten you (Deut. 31:6)
Remember that in the middle of deep darkness and despair, Jesus is the great light (John 1:5)
Remember that in Jesus, you can have true hope (Matt. 12:21)
We need hope this year.
We need Advent this year.
“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” Romans 3:25
Ryan Krueger is the young adult pastor at Christ Church in West Monroe, LA. His favorite things include getting breakfast with friends, March Madness, and any good book that challenges his faith. He and his wife, Morgan, were tour pastors for the LO Tour and will take any opportunity to love on others together.
Follow Ryan on Instagram @ryanmkrueger