From late fall until early spring, when nights are long and days short, my husband and I walk our dogs in darkness every morning and evening. The dogs sniff each mailbox and grass clump as we make our way around the familiar cul-de-sac. But the route is not fully encased in night’s shadow. The streetlamps give off just enough light so that as we leave the glow of one we take a few steps in the dark before entering the next.
In some ways, the Christian life can feel like those few steps in darkness. Behind us, we have the Incarnation, when “the Light [shone] in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it” (John 1:5). We trust God’s Word and believe that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Just ahead of us, we see the light of Christ glorified, when “there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illuminate them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). We have faith that God’s promises will be fulfilled and we will live with Him forever.
But between the two “lampposts” of God’s redemptive plan, even as we see and trust the light behind and before us, we are forced to take a few steps in the dark. With barely a glow to guide us, we navigate the uncertain paths of relationships, careers, and parenting. We walk through private pain, community tragedies, and global crises. We cry and weep to the Lord, and He points us back to those two lights, reminding us that we are not alone. His light gives us hope.
In Romans 8:24-25, Paul teases out this important reality. “Hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” he says. “But if we hope for what we do not see, through perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
But between the two “lampposts” of God’s redemptive plan, even as we see and trust the light behind and before us, we are forced to take a few steps in the dark.
The famous Christmas carol “O Holy Night,” which many of us will sing over the coming weeks, is a song of hope, reminding us why the “weary world rejoices” even now. It’s nestled between the “brightly shining” stars over Bethlehem and the culmination of Jesus returning in His glory, when “yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” We walk with hope toward that day when “chains shall He break … and in His name all oppression shall cease,” when we will finally and fully be called “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Hope isn’t just about the future; it’s about more than the life to come when God’s kingdom is fulfilled. In an important way, we can already see our eternal life with Him by the light of Christ and through the “eyes” of our faith. Also, and perhaps most importantly, hope in Jesus is a blessing in this moment—right here and now. It reminds us of our place in God’s story and grounds us in the truth that we belong to Him even when the light is dimmest.