God With Us: Hope

Last night my extended family rang in the new year together as we gathered to celebrate the wedding of two beloved 20-somethings in our family. Like births, weddings intrinsically hold within them much hope–hope for the future, hope for lasting love, hope for starting well so that all that is to come will have a solid foundation on which to build. 

So then, how appropriate it was to usher in 2023 while witnessing the coming together of two hope-filled people in marriage, celebrating in a room permeated with palpable love. Every eye sparkling with joy, and excitement crackling the air–because hope.

Finding Jesus

Similarly, Jesus’ birth brought with it a new beginning, and ultimately a new covenant, for all creation. His leaving heaven and all the power held within its halls to become a newborn baby reveals to us a new kind of hope. A hope born not of our ability to keep the rules but a living hope that cried in the cool of night over two thousand years ago. This was a living sacrifice that would one day require this baby’s body to be given on our behalf. 

Perhaps it was this kind of hope that drew men of science from far off kingdoms in the east to a king recently born in Bethlehem. These magi traveled for months to arrive in a foreign land in search of a baby because of a star. This celestial phenomenon piqued a curiosity that quickly became a pursuit of hope and a quest for presence. 

The men we often call wisemen were not satisfied with their well-kept notes about the star that shone with a unique brightness. And, they refused to justify a decision to remain safely at home, intentionally choosing not to ignore the star’s beckoning brilliance. 

Instead, these magi set out on camels, bearing gifts, to follow the glow in the eastern sky because somehow they knew in their hearts what their calculations couldn’t confirm–a baby boy had been born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). Foreigners, who sought Jesus by a star that gave them great joy (v.10), worshiped from their knees upon stepping into His presence (v.11). 

Knowing Jesus

Like the magi of old, we can choose to leave our places of comfort and step into a forever journey with the One who beckons us into His presence. We can choose to ignore lingering doubts that all the scientific proofs fail to answer and step into a faith that is sustained by the Spirit and Word.  

No matter how long you’ve been pursuing Jesus–fifty years or fifty minutes–there’s always more to know about Him. Like the magi, this journey to knowing Jesus is not a short one. It is, in fact, a lifetime of dwelling in His presence, of scouring His Word, of drawing closer to Him through prayer. 

We may never know how the magi’s lives were changed that day they bowed low before the King of Kings, but we do know of their faithfulness–they stayed the course till they knew Jesus for themselves, and they heeded God’s warnings (Matthew 2:12). And their faithfulness demonstrates for us the way to know Jesus most fully, through keeping God’s command to love in truth and deed (1 John 3:18).

God With Us

This year we’ve sought to follow Jesus more fully by learning all that it means to dwell with Him. We can look back to see the ways God has inhabited His world and His people through all generations. We can wrap our minds around the idea of remaining with Him more as a lingering, or a tarrying that is unrushed, uninhibited, and unobstructed by our ideas, our pride, our calendar.

We’ve sought all the ways we can abide most wholly with the Holy One–in body, mind, heart, and spirit. And we’ve taken time to walk with our Good Shepherd, allowing Him space to lead us to every good meadow and river, through every valley and path.

We’ve discovered that Immanuel really is GOD WITH US and that to dwell with Him is to live in peace, with love and joy and hope. 

As we set out into this new year, let’s take all that we’ve learned with us and choose to dwell with our God every moment of every day–and trust that as we dwell with Him, He dwells with us. Jesus is always and ever will be God With Us.  He is our hope.

Stars may not guide us to Jesus today, but the Holy Spirit leads us well. So, no matter what mysteries the future holds, we can take brave steps forward, following the One who will never leave us, never forsake us. He not only knows the future, but He’ll help us navigate all of it–and that is His promise for us as we step into 2023. Our trust in Him is secure because He is Way Maker, Miracle Worker, and Promise Keeper. 

So, let us set our eyes on the horizon of this new year ready to pursue His presence and hope.

  • Rhythms: I don’t know about you, but these last two weeks have been quite challenging as far as keeping rhythms goes. His Word kept me grounded, however, even if I only read in snippets and snatches. And so much of what we learned this year about dwelling in God broke out several times, reminding me to abide in Him–so in the moment I’d say a quick “I love You” prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to help my heart and mind to remain aligned with His. And I’m so grateful for all the ways He sustained me and showed me His joy and love.
    • Week Six Praise Rhythm: Like the star that led the magi to Jesus, stars can continue to be our reminders this week. As we pack away our Christmas decorations or look up into the night skies, we can thank God for showing us His way and for the hope of promises fulfilled each time we see a star.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • Well, I had to add “Way Maker” to our God With Us playlist. Singing aloud these monikers of Christ helps my trust and faith grow stronger–I hope it does the same for you!
    • Each week this Advent I’ve mentioned Annie F. Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun, because it’s really spoken to me in the midst of busyness and disappointments. But no week surpassed my expectations like her first week on Hope.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
    • God’s hope needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉
Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Featured Photo by Alexandra Gornago on Unsplash; Bits and Pieces Photo by Yana Gorbunova on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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