I was standing by the pickup counter at Panera Bread while the man behind the counter got the next order ready. “HOPE to go!” he shouted. A young woman named Hope stepped forward to claim her bagged food. As she walked past me I said, “Wow. We could all use some hope to go this time of year!” She smiled kindly at the weird older woman in the Christmas sweater and went merrily on her way. But an idea for a blog post was born.
Hope to go. Certainly hope goes with me every day of my life, but what does it mean to focus on hope at Christmas time? Doing so takes us back to the beginning of the story.
The prophet Isaiah planted seeds of hope in the hearts of the Israelites when he said as recorded in Isaiah 9:6 (KJV): For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Over 700 years before the Messiah entered the world, Isaiah’s prophecy gave the people hope to go.
At last, the time was near. When Joseph lifted the very pregnant Mary up on to the donkey for the long and arduous trip to Bethlehem, she needed hope to go, so hope went with her. Hope that what the angel revealed to her was true—that she really was carrying the Son of God in her womb. No doubt she also hoped for a smooth delivery, and that they would be able to find a safe place for the birth.
Did her hope temporarily wane as they were turned away by one innkeeper after another? Perhaps. But it came to fruition when one kind innkeeper offered a place in his stable. The babe was born as promised. As she cradled the newborn infant in her arms, she knew her hope had not been in vain. The bright star above them confirmed it. The appearance of the shepherds informed by angels confirmed it. Later the king-sized gifts brought by the wise men confirmed it. Her baby was the long-awaited Messiah.
When the jealous and hateful King Herod ordered all the baby boys under two years old to be killed, surely Mary hoped that Jesus would be spared. Warned by a dream, Joseph packed up his little family and they escaped. More hope to go.
What of us? As we journey toward Christmas we have temporal hope that families will travel safely, that promised gifts will be delivered on time or family conflicts will be resolved. But our hope to go is also eternal hope, an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19).
The familiar Christmas carol O Holy Night! includes the line, “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” In a world that can feel so extremely hopeless, let’s be thrilled by the eternal hope we have in Jesus. That’s hope to go.
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)