Locations & Times


by Jeff Lucas on December 21, 2023

It was a strange, wonderful birthday party. The birthday girl’s name was Hope.

Only fifteen or so people came, but the get-together had all the ingredients of an epic event. There were warm, loving words spoken, laughter and tears shared, and some surprise guests. Even Santa Claus showed up, splendid in a rich red coat lined with snow-white fur. It was a very emotional evening. At one point, I spotted Santa quietly sobbing.

It was the night Hope was baptized, and it happened just one day after she turned eleven years old.

Hope wanted to let everyone know that she was a Christian. She was young, but hers was no naive faith. Hope had already experienced more pain than most adults navigate through in a lifetime. But through it all, that little girl was a believer.

Hope had hope. She had a hope that nothing could suppress. Infinite hope.  

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The Power of True Hope

Hope is a word that mingles optimism with uncertainty. We hope it won’t rain on the wedding day and try to ignore the weather forecaster’s gloomy prediction of a deluge. We read the chilling statistics about cancer and hope we won’t be among those who develop rogue cells. 

We hope we won’t get fired, that the train will be on time, and that mortgage rates won’t rise. We hope that terrorists won’t strike anywhere that’s near us.

Sometimes, authentic hope does triumph against all the odds. Martin Luther King Jr. battled prejudice and oppression and suffered many disappointments as he fought. Hope fuelled his speeches; he famously had a dream and led a wonderful revolution against decades of injustice. That dream of his cost him his life, but the hope he engendered lived on.

Hope changes the world. Hope changes us.   

We all need hope.

Without it, life becomes a repetitive dirge, a never-ending drizzly day with no rainbow in sight. Hopelessness makes the horizon bleak. Tomorrow looks like just more of the same. When hope fades, relationships falter. Marriages die because hope has died first. When we no longer believe that another person might change, we lose the will to keep trying. 

Life without hope is just survival. The desperate need for hope makes us superstitious. We wish upon a star, the rabbit loses its foot, we touch wood, scan the horoscope, look out for passing black cats, and cross our fingers that we’ll be lucky. 

So where can we find real hope that is deeper than superstition or smiley it’ll-all-be-alright-on-the-night positive thinking? The song says, "Don’t worry, be happy." But tantalizingly, that ditty doesn’t tell us why we should be happy. 

Is there really a reason to smile? The answer is a resounding yes. There is good news.

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Inviting the God of Hope

The Bible describes God as "The God of hope." (Romans 15:13) Christianity makes a very strong claim – one that millions have found to be true. The Christian message is that true hope is available — right now — through Jesus Christ.   

Despite all of our toys, many of us are literally bored to death: hopelessness thrives when we have no sense of significance. The good news is that there is purpose and meaning in life. Author Dan Synder puts it like this: "Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story." Whatever our family history, whatever the circumstances of our birth, the fabulous truth is that we were all created by a God who loves us. A love story preceded us.

That same loving God wants us to live according to the way we were designed – in a daily relationship with Him, on Mondays as well as Sundays. Hope is to be found — not in an idea, a philosophy, or even a religion — but in a living friendship with God. 

He wants us to experience his involvement in our lives today. Help is at hand to deal with the enemies of hope that stalk us: our weaknesses, addictions, fears, acts of selfishness, and greed.

Jesus showed us how to really live on planet earth by His teachings and example. Then He went to the cross, and there He made a way for us to know God now.

But there was one final, ultimate reason for hopelessness, and it waits for us all at the end of life. It’s death. Funerals are often void of hope: no wonder the Bible calls death "the last enemy." (1 Corinthians 15:26) It’s a foe that threatens us all.

The great news is that death is the hope-killer that’s been killed. Three days after He was placed in a tomb, Jesus was raised to life. He took death on and won. Jesus is alive, and He wants us to begin a revolutionary friendship with Him now that will last forever. True hope is born in us when we invite Him to take charge. Christian hope is about being assured rather than hoping for the best. It’s solid and firm, like a ship's anchor. (Hebrews 6:19) The question remains: what is our response?

Hope is a decision to invite the God of hope to be our God.

The invitation is offered to everyone: no exclusions. The Bible says of Jesus, "In His name, the nations will put their hope." (Matthew 12:21) His message of hope is for the whole world. That means me and you. And yet it’s not just about us, because those who find hope want to pass it on.

Those who choose to make Him King of their lives then live to see His rule established in the earth. They work with Him to see justice for the oppressed. To make poverty history and end the blight of hunger. They realize that the planet belongs to God and to treat the environment with respect.

And they discover that He’s with them through the darkest days. Hope is not just there when the sun shines but through pain, suffering, and even death. God is with them through it all. 

That’s why an eleven-year-old called Hope was baptized.

Hope’s dad had died from colon cancer at a cruelly young age. Then Hope battled and beat bone cancer, only to discover that she had leukemia. The prognosis wasn’t bright. 

So that night we gathered — parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends — to witness Hope’s declaration of faith. She was bright and bubbly and looked completely healthy. Her smile was like daybreak, a dawning sun that sent shadows packing.

Hope believed in miracles, but she was not afraid of death.

After she was baptized came the prayers. First, Hope’s brother and sister prayed out loud, their clear voices thanking God for the gift of her; please let her stay longer. And then Hope prayed; no child spiritual prodigy this, just a little girl with faith. "Thank you for my family and friends. You are an awesome God. I just want Your will for me. I love You, Jesus. Amen."

It was then that Santa cried. Isabel, Hope’s little sister, was all dressed up for Christmas, in her gorgeous red Santa dress, fur-lined. Her smile was broad too, with the chaotic teeth that make a seven-year-old so delightful. Now, as she hugged her mother tight, tears brimmed over her eyes.

Yet, in the midst of the pain, we celebrated this truth: whatever hideous bullets life shoots at us, there is a God, one who is tough at times to understand, but utterly reliable to trust. Death, hell, pain, tears. In the end, He’s beaten the lot. 

Hope. A child who looked life and death in the face, with a smile, and stared it down. 

And we can too. 

Discover the Power of Hope: A Prayer for Renewal and Purpose

God of hope, come now, and take Your place at the center of my life.

I offer myself to You: save me from the hopelessness of life without You.

My independence days are over now: be Lord.

I embrace Your ways, and choose to be Your follower, Your apprentice.

Thank you for all that You have done at the Cross. All that I regret has been dealt with there. Thank you that You beat even death itself: because of You, I can live now and live with You forever.

Change me, renew my priorities, and let me live for You and with You from this day forward – whatever comes my way.

God of hope, be my hope, always.

In the name of Christ, 


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