The story is told of a man strolling by a sandlot ballpark one afternoon. “What’s the score?” he called to a boy in the dugout. "We’re down - Eighteen to nothing." "Wow!" said the spectator, "I'll bet you're discouraged." "Why should I be discouraged?" asked the little boy. "We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!" Source Unknown. I love this little guy’s hope in the face of great adversity.
Sometimes we have that kind of hope. But on other occasions financial difficulties overwhelm us, a relationship falls apart, a job situation looks impossible, our health declines or any number of other difficulties wear on us. Our hope runs out.
That is the situation in which the people of Israel find themselves when in Babylonian exile. Then the prophet Jeremiah speaks a word to the people. Sometimes known as “the weeping prophet,” this son of a priest from the tribe of Benjamin brings a word of hope to the people of Israel. In essence he writes, “Place your hope in the plan!”
Because God’s plan transcends time and place, his word of hope is applicable to us today. Where we feel no hope, God offers great hope. When we think there is no reason for hope, God shows us that hope is never lost. Where we see “no way,” God provides a way. When we lose confidence in our plans, we can be certain in God’s plan.
Christ-followers understand Jesus to be the ultimate fulfillment of the plan. Jesus is God’s Son - God come to earth. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem that first Christmas so long ago. He lived in the northern part of Israel in Galilee. He taught . . . prayed . . . healed the sick . . . and forgave sin. Then he did the most courageous and sacrificial act this world has ever known. He died on a cross so that we could know forgiveness for our sins. Here is the most important part of that news . . . Jesus was resurrected from the dead, breaking the chains of sin and death in our lives. In that moment, true hope was born.
If ever we need hope, it is during the Christmas season. Though a wonderful season filled with bright lights and joyful sounds, Christmas is also a hard time for many of us as we remember better days in our past or face the disappointment of our present. Hope is what we find at the manger in Bethlehem. Hope that gives life meaning and purpose . . . that allows us to get through tough days with courage . . . that encourages our spirits . . . brightens our existence . . . and helps us to reach beyond ourselves toward God Almighty. Though hope does not always make sense from this side of heaven, it is the reality that lifts us beyond the challenging circumstances that life on earth brings us.
We may be afraid, but Jesus isn’t. We may not know what to do. But he does. We may feel like giving up. But he doesn’t. Nothing is hopeless to Jesus because he knows the power of God like no other. He is the Son of God, God Incarnate! He has seen God offer second chance after second chance to the human race down through the centuries. During the 30 plus years that he walked this earth he gave hope to people in seemingly impossible circumstances. He is still about the business of offering hope today.
The little guy in the dugout whose team was behind 18-0 maintained hope in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. After all, his team had not yet come up to bat! Sometimes, we are hope-filled in daunting circumstances, too. On other occasions, though, our hope wanes. When that happens, may Jeremiah’s prophetic word ring loudly and clearly in our ears. Place hope in God’s plan!
As always it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference