This is the time of pre-Christmas festivities when we all hunker down to watch our favorite Christmas movies. The weather is less favorable to outdoor activity, we are enjoying the beauty of our brightly decorated homes, and everyone longs for the nostalgia that these movies bring.
Whether you are an Elf/Grinch fan or lean toward the old black and white classics like Miracle on 34th Street, all of these movies have one thing in common…hope.
Hope for a better tomorrow.
Hope in humanity.
Hope in a future that is less complicated than the present.
Hope that we will get it right this year and turn our hearts toward the good things, the righteous things, the important things….the things that last.
Even the ubiquitous Hallmark Christmas movies echo these articulations of hope…albeit in the same story format. There is a girl (often played by a forgotten actress from the ‘90’s) who is recently widowed, separated, or divorced. Looking for a fresh start, she leaves the big city/corporate job and moves to a town with a name that sounds like the latest version of a Bath and Body Works lotion followed by the word Springs, Glen, Falls, or Woods. (“Welcome to Mistletoe Kiss Falls!”) There she meets an incredibly good-looking single man. Both of them are wearing sweaters. One of them hates Christmas. There is a business/community fair/school that has a crisis, and the girl and the guy come together to solve it, and eventually fall in love. (Don’t hate me! You know it’s true!)
We just can’t resist a good story about hope.
Psalm 85 is a psalm of hope, and it does not disappoint. It begins with a re-telling of God’s redeeming of Israel in the past, and points to the hope of salvation in the future.
Psalm 85 (New Revised Standard Version)
Lord, you were favorable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Watch what the psalmist does next. The interactions between steadfast love and faithfulness, and righteousness and peace are portrayed as beautiful meetings between two love interests:
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Even Hallmark would approve of this plot line.
Then comes the hope:
12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
Friends, the Lord WILL give what is good. He is giving it even as we speak. In the midst of a pandemic, hope arrives in the form of vaccines that will be available in no time. In the midst of a pandemic, we have learned the importance of family time and real connections. In the midst of a pandemic, we have learned to hope again.
When God’s people turn to him and follow his steps toward righteousness, hope reigns. What do you need to do today to correct your steps? Where are you wandering off God’s path? Where do you need hope?
Return to God in a spirit of faithfulness and he will meet you there with his steadfast love. Surely his salvation is at hand when you fear him…turn to him with all your heart.