Gloomy clouds of night. Misery. Death’s dark shadow. Loneliness. Mourning. Captvity. Tyranny.. even to the depths of hell.
The world is bad. Really bad. If you are facing any of the trials above, you know that. No amount of holiday spirit and glee is going to change that. In fact, in probably makes it worse. The “gloomy clouds of night” seem even darker when others seem to be bathed in the light of the season.
Do these words sound familiar? They should.. all of the phrases above were taken directly from two of the most famous Christmas songs; O come, O come Emmanuel and Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. They show, in dark detail, the condition of man, and the state of this world. This was the world which awaited the arrival of, well.. HOPE. Funny thing, hope, we can only hope for something we don’t have. It’s not naive, doe-eyed optimism. No, it’s not a wish. Hope is the longing for something we need, and we feel the weight of that need in emptiness.
This need, this hope, this longing is actually good, though we see tragedy every day as people seek to fill the hopelessness with drugs or alcohol, or seek to fill the loneliness through unhealthy relationships. Or, in the end, some lose this hope, this expectation, and become HOPELESS. Without hope, there is nothing left to live for. This hopelessness, this giving up of the expectation, of hope is not good, it’s a LIE.
I heard a beautiful message this week which covered this lie in detail. We hear this lie so long in such darkness and loneliness that we can soon hear nothing else. Because it’s LOUD:
L: It’s a Lie. The lie is that there is no help for you. That what you’ve done is too bad, that you’re too far gone, and that you are unworthy.
O: It’s an Overstatement. It focuses on the bad and ignores the good. It will see temporary problems as never-ending.
U: There is a lack of Understanding: Nobody gets me, nobody knows what I’ve done. Nobody really loves me.
D: Doubt and Despair: This is it. It’s not going to get better. It’s no longer worth it.
To that I say perhaps the cruelest thing you can imagine:
You’re right. You’re actually worse than you think you are. You are too far gone. You’re beyond digging yourself out of the pit. You are unworthy. Nobody knows the depth of your problems. And, it really only gets worse from here.
Wait, that’s not right. You can’t tell someone who is in despair that kind of stuff! I can. And, according to scripture, it’s the truth. Without Christ, every awful prospect is true.
And this is the world as it stood at Advent. Advent means “coming”, waiting, expecting. The songs of Christmas? The gloomy clouds of night? Bondage? Tyranny? Death’s dark shadow? Real. All real. But….. the waiting? It was the wait for a promise:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:2-7 ESV)
The promise. The fulfillment of hope. Jesus! Immanuel, God with us!
Do you know the good news that must have been to the people who had waited century after century for this good news? And then He came, the King of the Universe taking on human flesh to deliver His people….
As a baby? In a stable? In the some podunk town in the middle of nowhere? Huh.
Surely, he’d grow into manhood and get it going. We’ve waited centuries, what’s another 30 years, right?
So, finally, the first big sermon.. the sermon on the mount. We’ve waited, and He looks like He’s about to kick of His big plan.. So how does this thing work out, how does Jesus crush our foes and make everything better?
“You are blessed, Poor in Spirit.” “You are blessed, mourners.”
What? Seriously? No, I don’t want to be poor in spirit. I don’t want to mourn. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. I want to be happy!
But they missed it. And we miss it too. The promise is that your greatest need has been met. Christ didn’t come as a conquering King, He came as a helpless babe. He didn’t come to remove His people from the cruel government or the taunts of their enemies, in fact, it got worse for them. He didn’t remove them from the world, but promised that the world would hate them.
He has delivered us from our sin and death, Our greatest needs. And He came with the promise that He will return again to conquer the enemy, and end once and for all the gloomy clouds of night, the tyranny, the loneliness, and the pain. And for that, we continue with HOPE. Not because we never feel lonely, or afraid, or sad. Not that we don’t make mistakes, or sin, or make a disaster of our lives. It’s because He has completely paid for those sins, and for the Lie, the Overstatement, the lack of Understanding, and the Doubt.
If you have not repented of your sins, and believed in faith that Christ has paid the price for them, all of the darkness in the first sentences of this article is real, and there is truly no hope for you. As cruel as it may sound, I pray that it drives you to the realization that salvation is in Christ alone.
If you have turned to Christ in faith, these temporary pains are just that. Understand that Jesus promised that in this world there would be suffering, but that in Him you may have PEACE, for He has overcome the world!
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 ESV)
So, you will continue to suffer in this world. Bank on it. Don’t be suprised! But we suffer in anticipation, in hope of His glorious return to make all things new. The only difference between the Doctor’s table and the torturers table is the understanding that it is for your good, and that it will end. Your suffering is working toward your ultimate good and your union with Him in glory, and it will end. And in that is your Hope. The Hope, that the very God of the universe condescended to be born a helpless baby, to live a life of perfect obedience, to suffer a brutal death in your place as punishment for your sins, to bodily rise again from the dead, and to sit victorious at the right hand of the Father, preparing for the event we now wait, in hope, for… His return!
The words in the beginning of this article are real. You know that. You may be living them now, but let’s look at them with the blessed arrival of Christ in this Christmas Season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free Thine own from Satan’s tyranny; From depths of hell Thy people save, And give them victory o’er the grave.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night And death’s dark shadows put to flight!
O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thy own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to they glorious home.
So, there you have it, Hope has come, but not as we would expect it. We will continue to suffer, but we suffer as those who have hope. I can’t make your situation go away, and you’d think me a liar if I said I could.. But, I can promise you something this enemy is trying to steal from you this season.. Hope through Christ; Immanuel, God with us! And for those of you who are His, it is NEAR:
N: He has promised to NEVER leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13)
E: God’s perspective is ETERNAL and His love EVERLASTING (Habakkuk 3 and Jeremiah 31)
A: God’s love ALWAYS; helps, forgives, loves, comforts, and works ALL things for our good. (Romans 8)
R: God holds REALITY in His hands, He controls the universe. Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you. (Psalm 81)
I pray that you know the peace of Christ his season, for even if it is dark, know that your Hope is secure, and that any suffering here is merely in passing until we are delivered by Him who loves you. Though we have seen the light of the gospel which the saints of old hoped for, we now wait for His glorious return. We join the chorus of saints through the centuries singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!”
I’m available any time for any of you who need a shoulder or an ear.
Note: Depression is not a sin. It is not a weakness. If you believe you may suffer from depression, PLEASE seek someone professionally trained to assist you. If you are considering harming yourself, please call 1-800-273-8255, available 24/7.