thrill of hope

Driving through Washington DC, in the flow of meetings in and around the capitol, I decided to stop by and say hi to our family at National Community Church. As we were saying goodbye they went over to a stack of freshly arrived narrow cardboard boxes, and carefully cutting through the clear tape produced a CD case. Fresh in its plastic wrapping was their worship team’s new Christmas album.

I thanked them for their gift, above and beyond their incredible prayer and financial support they’ve given our family over the years, and started walking back to my car. Walking through the brisk cold I looked at the case in my black-gloved hands; white words set against distant lights coming into focus, “Thrill of Hope”. The words on the cover began to resonate with my heart.

Like unwrapping an early Christmas present I sat in my car and began to listen to the collection of christmas carols and hymns, with those words, “thrill of hope,” still reverberating in my soul. For “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, / ’Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth / A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, / For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” Driving through DC traffic I longed to fall on my knees, to lift my voice with angels and sing out the truth that Jesus Christ our Lord has come! That day when the Messiah would appear has come! The Lord of all creation that would redeem the lost and transform our brokenness with His restoring hand has come!

Seeing dreams and visions materialize is exhilarating! It drives to the very heart, the very core of our hopes and expectations. And the Gospel goes beyond our hope for a particular present under the Christmas tree. It goes beyond the “I do” at the marriage altar. It goes beyond hearing the baby’s cry at birth. Eternal salvation purchased in the palms of Christ and redemption into the arms of our Father is more exhilarating, more thrilling than any other hope.

And out of my car stereo they sang, “The thrill of hope has come through an act of love / The prince of heaven now here on earth to be our saving grace / Hail Emmanuel, God with us!”

Dear friend, as you walk through this advent season, these days and weeks that lead to Christmas, can you approach the manger with expectancy? The thrill of hope for all humanity has come to us through an act of love. Jesus Christ our Lord, our Messiah, stepped out of His eternal glory so that we might find His saving grace. Jesus the Messiah is our Emmanuel. He is our God, and He is with us!

And as our hearts thrill with expectancy, as we worship our Lord moving ever closer into His presence by His Holy Spirit, can we remember those still a far way off that have yet to hear. They are still out on the hillsides of this world waiting without hope. They are still unreached, living in the shadows of false religion and without the Good News of Jesus. Let us pray for them, let us call out to them by name and share with them the gift of eternal life.