If we could gather around the fire with a cup of coffee and talk about this season, I’d ask about your favorite passage related to the birth of our Savior.
I’m sure I’d hear of Mary’s wonder, the angels’ proclamation, the irony of a king in a manger and many more. At times, each of these has been my first choice. But after a fall Bible study on the book of Ruth, the lineage of Jesus is on my mind.
It’s not earth-shattering to speak of Christ’s scandalous genealogy. You could likely recite with me how it includes adultery, incest, murder, prostitution, flagrant kingly disobedience, gentile women, and even cowardly and untruthful actions by the patriarch who was given the original blessing.
My Bible study covered all of that as we looked at God’s grace on Ruth – a gentile woman – as she was brought into the royal line. But as I studied this book, I was captivated by a parallel storyline: the difference a Redeemer makes.
The book of Ruth opens with famine, death, emptiness, hopelessness, and bitterness, just to name a few. Naomi speaks without hesitation of the hand of the Lord being against her. “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21a)
That’s all in chapter 1. But turn the page and see what chapter 2 beholds. Onto this scene enters the one who will eventually become the kinsman-redeemer: Boaz. And by chapter 4, life has followed death; fullness has replaced emptiness; the future holds hope instead of despair.
And the difference? The Redeemer. What a difference a redeemer makes.
On this side of the timeline, we easily skim chapter 1 with an omniscient view since we know how the story ends. But imagine the depth of Naomi’s despair. It was real. Scripture doesn’t give insight into Ruth’s mindset. We only see her resolve to hold on and glean where she can. But we can imagine she might have wondered if life would ever return to a place of comfort and security.
We could discount the desperation of thousands of years ago because we know they get their happy ending. And what’s more: we know it holds more happiness than they could ever have imagined.
But what about our own lives?
When the answers don’t come and the loss continues to compound.
When it feels like the Lord’s hand is against us and we’ve been left to figure it out ourselves.
When as far as the timeline can predict, the future is bleak. Our full has become empty.
Dear friends, this may be you or it may be someone you know. All around us, this fallen world batters our souls and bruises our joy. Life is hard. But the story of Christmas reminds us we are NEVER without hope.
We also see that hopelessness is often the ground into which true hope can take root. The underlying theme of the entire biblical narrative is this:
Hope forfeited. Hope restored. Hope fulfilled.
When all seemed lost, hope came down wrapped in swaddling clothes. And from that manger, a Redeemer grew. They called him Jesus, for He saved us from our sins. All of us.
The good news for the sinners in Christ’s lineage and the scoundrels that came after (that’s you and me, btw) is that it’s not about us. There is no pedigree we can produce or list of achievements to recite. It’s all about the Redeemer.
The Redeemer makes the difference.
Even if you can’t see how right now, you can hold onto the promises and cling to the promise-giver. There’s only One who can be counted on to fulfill expectations; everything but Jesus will eventually disappoint.
When you realize it is hopeless to hope in anybody else (including yourself), then the doorway to real hope in your life will open. It’s often in your darkest moments that the true objects of your hope are revealed. But when you get to the end of yourself and relinquish all your expectations of others and perfect circumstances, then you are prepared to give the true source its rightful place.
Open up the dark corners of your heart and call out any imposters who are posing as an expectation of hope. Rebuke the false hope. Restore the true hope.
Hope thrills only when its only object is Jesus.
The One who didn’t spare His own Son is the One who holds your future. And the One who counted you worth leaving the comforts of heaven to walk the dusty road of earth toward a wooden cross is the One we call Emmanuel. God with us. Our Redeemer.
And that, my friends, makes all the difference.
Christi Gee is the author of Revival: 6 Steps to Reviving Your Heart and Rebuilding Your Prayer Life and the creator of It’s Reasonable — a series of guided courses designed to help parents and teachers answer kids’ common questions about the Christian faith. Her newest book Behold released just in time for Christmas Advent. Find out more at ChristiGee.com or join Christi on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.