“Give hope, give life, give blood.” That’s the slogan of the Southern California blood bank where I volunteer as an Appreciation Ambassador, or canteen lady as my mom calls those who help blood donors have a pleasant experience. (I guess she would call the male volunteers “canteen gentlemen.”) For those who receive the gift of blood, donated by people who just want to help others, it is sometimes their only hope to regain their health and perhaps their lives.
During the Christmas celebration, I thought about this slogan relative to our Savior, who came to fulfill those words in a different manner. By giving his blood, he gave us life and thus gives hope to the whole world. Christmas is a celebration of the hope he brought us in the form of a baby, one of us but God with us at the same time, the hopes and dreams of humanity wrapped in swaddling clothes.
We’re now well into 2016, and on the first day of the new year, many of us looked forward to a fresh start – the chance to get rid of bad habits or start new ones, to make changes to improve our lives. Any resolutions made on January first have probably already been abandoned. As we all know, resolutions don’t work. Most of us don’t even make them anymore, including me, but the thought of a blank slate and the opportunity to begin again still goes through our minds. I think this happens for one reason: hope. We keep hoping the sad, bad, difficult or painful parts of our lives will get better or even go away if we just do something. Sadly, turning the page on the calendar doesn’t have much effect on these situations.
Resolutions and new calendars give us the illusion of hope but the only real hope we have is in Jesus. “His name will be the hope of all the world” (Matthew 12:21, NLT). Only he can turn our tears into smiles, our mourning into gladness and our sorrow into joy (Jeremiah 31:13). Unlike a lot of the short-term, quick fixes we try to incorporate into our routines, the hope we have in Jesus is long term, permanent and solid as a rock. And also unlike the determination we often have at the start of a new year, the hope Jesus gives us doesn’t wax and wane with the calendar. It is steady, constant and reliable.
Rather than becoming discouraged because we make and break promises to ourselves or simply abandon the whole struggle to make changes in our lives, let’s do one simple thing: fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). By focusing on him and depending on the Holy Spirit who is our true and only agent of change, we can keep hope alive, stay attached to the Vine and look forward to growing in his love and grace.