The story of Elijah in I Kings 19, has him running for his life because he challenged Queen Jezebel and shown the people of Israel the futility of believing in her god, Baal. Elijah ended up in the wilderness, alone and scared, convinced that he was the only one left in Israel who believed in God and that he would die for his faith and his actions. Yet, in a series of visions, God showed Elijah that the situation was not as bleak as he imagined and that many others believed as he did.
Feeling hopeless - that all is lost and nothing you can do means anything - is easy at times. Hopelessness was prevalent when Jesus began his ministry. We know that John the Baptist sent some of his followers to Jesus to find out if he was the Messiah or if they should look for someone else. The idea that God cared for his people was being challenged by a legalistic and unbending religious establishment and tempered by the presence of a political dictatorship. We can easily see why there was no hope in the land. But Jesus stood up to speak in the synagogue and announced hope, real hope! He proclaimed:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lords' favor." Luke 4:18-19 (NRSV)
Faith in God allows us to welcome hope into our lives and at times, hope may be all that gets us through the dark times. To wait with expectation is to hope! We wait with hope for Jesus to show us that we are his beloved children. We hope for our friends to understand Jesus' love for them and to accept him into their lives. We wait with expectation for peace in this war-torn world. We wait expectantly for Jesus to show us how he is present in every difficult situation. Even if the culture of the world has become sad and hopeless, Jesus tells us, "Take heart. I have overcome the world." Hope helps us overcome problems, and knowing that after this life we have an eternity to spend with Jesus, offers us enough hope to last an entire lifetime!
Ask your teen...
How can you hope if you do not have faith?
What situation in your life makes hope difficult?
God doesn't always give us what we need. What helps you to trust that God is with you and to hope for the future God wants for you?
Challenge your teen...
Remember that God will meet you wherever you are. Set aside time to pray. Talk to God. Read your Bible. Ask your family and friends what enables them to hope.
This Christmas, find ways to proclaim and to live out the hope of God's dream for the world.
God, give us light in the darkness and hope for a new day. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.