“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices”John S. Dwight, “O Holy Night”
When you’re weary, celebration feels overwhelming. Impossible, even.
When you already feel poured out and drained dry, how can you muster up the energy to throw a party, much less decorate, dress up, find a gift, or even simply smile?
And at this time of year, there’s not just one party or event or get together, but a whole string of them spread out over weeks, like beads heavy and awkward around one’s neck.
When your soul is tired, celebration feels gaudy, out of place, loud. Fake, even.
Staring down the holidays, it’s easy to feel defeated before you even start. Especially at the end of a year that has been wringing the joy and anticipation out of us since the beginning, a year that has felt longer than a decade, a year that has worn us all down.
When you’re weary, celebration feels like that last thing you want to do. And for those of us who trudge through each day with physical illness like an anchor dragging behind us, never letting go, always weighing us down, celebration is foreign.
Maybe we haven’t actually been to a party in years because we just don’t have the energy to go.
Maybe we’ve gone, but we’ve felt barely present, hindered by our pain and our food restrictions and our brain fog and giving the same answers over and over when asked, “How are you?”
Maybe it’s been a long time since we’ve celebrated anything with our hearts truly in it.
We are weary of the fatigue, the pain, the constant appointments and diagnoses and dead ends. We are weary of getting our hopes up for an answer or a cure and weary of having our hopes dashed for the millionth time. We are weary of the very life we live at times, and wary of the light we see in others’ faces.
We ask ourselves if we will ever be able to celebrate healing–or celebrate anything like a normal person–again.
Hope seems far away, like something other people have found while we grope desperately around in our fog for even a shred of that hope to be ours again.
“My eyes grow weary looking for your salvation and for your righteous promise.”Psalm 119:123, CLB
Hope is hard to hang onto when change just doesn’t come, when the answers just aren’t there.
There didn’t seem like much hope left for the Israelites either.
After generations of going through the same cycle from captivity to restoration to captivity again, there finally came a point of silence–silence that stretched out over four hundred years.
God’s people lost their tangible connection to Him through His revelation to their prophets and prophetesses. They endured four hundred years of silence while living under oppression by the Roman Empire, waiting without answers, without even hearing His voice, before the time was right for God to move again.
And then–even then–their hope came in all the opposite ways they expected. A baby? Born to a young unmarried woman? In a stable? To live in Nazareth, of all places, and to be a regular old carpenter for thirty years?
And then to become a wandering teacher whose words turned the world upside down and chased away as many people as they attracted, ultimately turning the religious leadership against him to the point of murdering him?
What kind of hope is that?
I’d be weary, too. I’d have given up on that hope long ago. Moving on, nothing to celebrate here.
The miracle of Jesus’ birth and life and even His death and resurrection show us that hope can appear in the most unlikely of places.
It is in the most dismal of times, the bleakest of prognoses, the deadest of ends, where hope–true hope–shines the brightest.
And that hope always brings with it a celebration.
There was a cruel oppression, but there was also a journey taken in faith.
There was no room left, but there was a stable.
There was a painful labor alone, but there was a choir of angels.
There was a mass murder of babies, but there was an escape.
There was the poor side of town, but there were gifts from kings.
There was a cross, but there was a resurrection.
There were all the things fighting against hope, but there was victory.
Hope had been there all along, but it took a different perspective to see it.
“And the prophet Isaiah said, ‘There shall be an Heir in the house of Jesse, and he will be King over the Gentiles; they will pin their hopes on him alone.'”Romans 15:12, TLB
When you’re weary, celebration feels overwhelming. Impossible, even. But the thrill of hope that made the weary world rejoice is still there for us to grasp today.
It makes the weariness perhaps the most unlikely and yet most fitting vessel of hope after all.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding. He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless.Isaiah 40:28-29, CLB
We are weary, but there is cause to rejoice. The weariness only makes the hope more evident.
We may not feel like celebrating, but the celebration is already happening.
We need only join in.
1Shannan Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, Thomas Nelson, 2018.