By Abby Ciona, Canada
It’s that time of year again when Christmas carols fill the air, their lyrics prettily scrawled on greeting cards, gift bags, and ornaments hanging on our trees. Happy sentiments of “Joy to the World!” and “Silent Night” fill us with warm, fuzzy feelings of familiarity.
Considering how often I hear Christmas carols, I’ve only just realised that I don’t really pay close attention to its words. It was during a recent chapel service at my university, when we sang “O Holy Night”, that the lyrics struck me:
Long lay the world in sin and ever pining
‘Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
In that moment, I heard the song in a new way, and realised how powerful these words are—a reminder of how Jesus came in the humblest way to bring light and hope to a world drowning in the darkness of sin.
Hearing this song, with new ears this time, pointed me to the hope of Christmas. I began to listen more closely to my favourite Christmas songs, and that helped me rediscover their themes of the hope we have in Jesus.
So, what is this hope? I have come up with five points that stuck out to me:
Hope is thrilling
“Thrill” is a word I usually reserve for roller coasters, outdoor adventures, and action movies. But if “thrilling” is defined as excitement and great emotion, then it makes sense to describe hope that way.
Advent, the countdown to Christmas, is a season of excited waiting, because we know it leads up to the most thrilling news of all: That “God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of Christmas, we have hope of a restored relationship with God where nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
Whenever I feel like I’m just trying to make it through the day, it’s thrilling to have a purpose for living in Jesus, and to remember something I can look forward to: His return and restoration of the world. That’s why we can sing “Joy to the World”—we can be joyful about the future, because Jesus “comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
Hope is rest in a weary world
In the hectic Christmas season, rest is a reminder I often need to hear. I love being busy, and I often overwhelm myself with Christmas preparations. Find the perfect gifts for everyone! Volunteer! Bake cookies! Make Christmas cards! I feel pressured to get ahead of schedule and to go above and beyond in everything.
But Jesus didn’t come to give me a to-do list. He came as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), offering rest in the chaos and troubles of our lives (Matthew 11:28). Our weary world can rejoice in thankfulness and rest in His peace, knowing that He has saved us through His gift of grace, the greatest present of all (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Hope is light in the darkness
Where I live, wintertime brings long, cold nights. Many people struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression. I often feel down when it’s dark at breakfast and dark again before dinner. That’s why I love Christmas lights so much—they bring light and beauty to a dark time of year.
Looking at the brokenness in our world, it’s hard to not feel shrouded in darkness and discouragement. But “a new and glorious morn” comes because of Jesus, the Light of the world. With Him, we don’t have to walk in the darkness of sin (John 8:12). We have the light and hope of His presence to keep us going through the dark times (John 1:5).
Hope is our strength through struggles
This past year, I have struggled through depression and anxiety while transitioning into university life, not to mention jolting between the reopenings and shutdowns under waves of COVID-19.
Perhaps you’re looking back over 2021 and seeing mostly loss, pain, and disappointment. It’s hard to be hopeful when nothing has gone as you planned.
In those times, I’m reminded of the Israelites who were about to go into exile for their sins, forced to leave the land God had given them. Even then, God reminded them: “I know the plans I have for you … plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). God gave them that promise to hold onto, even though it took decades for His plan to happen.
The same, unchanging God today promises that He will never leave us. In a year full of changes and unknowns, I have found hope by resting in His steadfast love (Romans 5:5).
As the lyrics from the carol, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” go—
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art.
Even when we are weak and struggling, we can rest in Jesus’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:10). He is the source of our hope—our anchor amid life’s storms (Hebrews 6:19).
Hope is something to share!
Christmas carols are meant to be sung aloud together for everyone to hear. We need to “go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere,” because our world needs the hope of Jesus’s life.
We can share hope and love with others through both words and actions. I’m looking forward to baking treats for my family and neighbours, surprising my friends with handmade Christmas cards, and playing music with my church’s worship team.
When I gather with my church family and sing the familiar carols on Christmas Eve, I will be reminded of the incredible hope we have in Jesus. Even though we usually sing Christmas carols only around Christmastime, the lyrics point to a hope that we can experience and celebrate all year round.
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)