Hope and Christmas—a match made in heaven, indeed. It’s the promise fulfilled, the beginning of the rest of the story, the unseen finally seen. Why else would pews be packed this Christmas Eve with worship teams pulling out all the stops but to celebrate the hope of Christmas? Hope, however, has gotten this reputation over the years as being something more celebratory than maybe it is at times. Gratefully, pastors, preachers, and priests all over have grown more sensitive to the temperature of the times, realizing not everyone is experiencing the same level of joy as others. But still, the seats are full on Christmas Eve because of hope, even if just an inkling of it.
There is, no doubt, the hope of Christ’s advent, but sometime later after Jesus came, Paul sat down to write to the Corinthian believers and spoke directly into the messiness of relationships—an arena of life where celebration can be so very distant and seemingly impossible for many, especially now as we come together to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Paul wrote, “Love always hopes.” There may be severe misunderstanding and subsequent frustration if we think, “love always has a smile painted on” or even “love always celebrates.” Do not lose sight that Paul wrote directly into the messiness of relationships, where smiles and celebrations aren’t always present. What could he have meant and what would be the point?
Explanations abound for what Paul meant when he encouraged his fellow believers to live out an always-hoping love toward others, and one of my favorites is this: “Love holds onto eventual development, which insinuates there is profound underdevelopment currently. It means we remember that God has them on a journey” (Judah Smith). Hope may be holding onto their eventual development, but can we agree that that holding gets tiring, that their eventual development can’t come soon enough? Love always hopes, and always is a long time!
Another source helps in a similar way: “Love [always hopes] in the sense that it earnestly desires that all things work out for the best” (BBC). Does this mean we’re foolish? In expressing an always-hoping love, do we become over time people characterized by gullibility? Or has God designed love in such a way that as we rightly hope in the proper place (i.e. Person), we become not great models of naivety, but truer examples of His love and character and a closer resemblance of the best possible version of ourselves? Yes, it must be that. Hopefulness is not synonymous with foolishness. To be clearer, it is not ignoring the pain, blinking at the mess up, or sweeping anything under the rug. It is redirecting our eyes in order to retain a proper focus. This is done not to ignore, but in order to love most effectively. If hope is remembering that God has them on a journey, then redirecting our eyes is looking to that journey, instead of taking a screen shot. More accurately, it is looking to the Journey-Guide. It is not based on the past or the present, but on the Future-Maker. It is not focused on the sin, but on the Sin-Forgiver. Hope is not anchored on broken trust, but on the Trustworthy God.
There is no feasible way that we would become foolish by loving others with hope. Not only do we become wiser, but God has designed love in such a way that as we demonstrate it our character is developed. We must not be surprised, however, that our character development comes in the always. Yes, God has them on a journey, but He has us on one, too, and journeys take a while.