The Worst Day of the Year?

“Good grief. I hate this day… now there are 364 days until Christmas!”

That was my comment when I woke up on December 26, back in 1964. I remember the moment, the feeling, the Charlie Brown inspired woe. After 25 days of counting down–interminably–to Christmas morning, I couldn’t imagine starting over again.  So long to wait for Santa to come. So long before we get to open presents again.

December 26 was the worst day of the year for me back then.

Now that I’m a little older–ahem–December 26 is the best day of the year, or at least a major contender. The work of “putting Christmas on” for my extended family is finally accomplished. The shopping, buying, wrapping, mailing, stocking stuffing, meal planning, baking, cooking, and decorating are Done. We even made it to the Christmas eve service. The big meals have been served, enjoyed, and cleaned up.

Now I can put on some Christmas music and sit down. Maybe eventually catch a movie. Lunch? Sorry, kitchen’s closed. Let’s go out.

What Changed?

I bet you can relate.  What changed between our childhood and our adulthood? What changed the worst day into the best?

Hope. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” (1 Cor. 13:11). In childhood my highest hope of the season was the pile of presents I anticipated on Christmas morning. But when I grew up, I got tired. I gave up my childish ways and wandered off to take a nap. The trinkets no longer dazzled me. The work drained me.

Now don’t get me wrong. Rest is good, especially when mixed with equal parts of play. If you have the week off from work, enjoy the space provided between the high holiday of Christmas and the New Year–do something you enjoy with someone you love. Try to squelch your knee jerk instinct to get back to the malls or to start your new year’s work early.

Rest is good. But rest is not enough to satisfy us in this last week of the year.

For that we need hope.

My Hope Is Too Small

Both hopes–and all the ones that mark the years in between–are too small.

And it only satisfies a certain part of me–the trinket-loving part or the tired part.

You and I need a hope in the last week of this year that is big enough to satisfy every part of us. We need a hope that is permanent enough to satisfy us forever. We need a hope that is shining enough (dare I say it, “glorious enough”) to obliterate every shadow of pain and disappointment and failure and sin that we have ever known.

We actually need a hope that explodes our neat categories of hope. That blows our minds.

In this last week of the year we need the glorious hope that Christ will come again and live with us forever.

Our Glorious Hope

This is the true hope you and I have if we have placed our trust in the death of Jesus for our sins. We know that. But we don’t think about it as often and ardently as a child waiting for Christmas. Or as an adult looking forward to a well-deserved break.

The apostle Paul hints at it at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. This hope is

  • Permanent, not passing: “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” 13:8.
  • Perfect, not partial: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” 13:9-10.

This hope is summarized in the short phrase I left out of 13:8: “Love never ends.” It is the never ending love of God for us in Christ that promises us an eternity of love in the new heavens and the new earth. This is the “perfect” that will finally come. This is the adult hope we must take into ourselves to replace all of our childish ways.

“When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” 1 Cor. 13:11b-12.

Face to face. Fully known. Loved forever. Now there’s a hope worth taking with us into the New Year.

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