My dog, Oscar, is awesome. He really is the best dog that God ever created. Really. He is. In fact, sometimes, I have a suspicion that he’s part human. Just kidding. (Sort of). He’s just so full of personality. You’d really have to know him in order to believe me as to how wonderful he is. But, I have to say, that he has been such a God-sent blessing to my husband and me. He totally flips out with excitement after either of us gets home and eagerly welcomes us with kisses, hugs, and old doggy hymns of joy. If we’re sad, he climbs up our chests to give us a full on hug and wipes away our tears with his sweet kisses. If we’re arguing, he gets in between us and jumps between the two of us and kisses each of us so as not to show favoritism, but to urge us to get along. If we’re up too late talking or watching T.V., he runs upstairs and either gets in the bed or if he’s really tired, crawls underneath the lower rack of my sweaters in the closet and settles in for the night. Steady as the sun, though, we always find him back in the bed with us the next morning. Oh, and he snores louder than my Granddaddy did when he’s really knocked out. If my husband and I are in different areas of the house, he positions himself exactly between our locations, even if it means laying across one step halfway down the stairs. If we’re on a car ride and run into traffic, he hangs his head and moans the most frustrated doggy groans you’ve ever heard. Anytime our family members come to visit, he nearly knocks them over as he greets them with utter excitement because he knows exactly who they are. He doesn’t mind terribly when you hold him like a baby. And he really enjoys his toddler polo shirt. When one of us is gone, even if it’s to the grocery store, he cries his eyes out until his missing parent returns safely home. He’s the perfect amount of puppy and adult doggy and offers abundant, furry cuddles. That dog has taught me so much about life. Things like unconditional love, loyalty, observing small things with immense curiosity, protecting those you love with full abandonment and more. But one of the attributes of my fur-born that I’ve witnessed the most is how he waits in hope.
Whether it’s for the mailman to drop the post through the slot in the door, the anticipation of his daddy returning from work, or the chance to catch a few crumbs from the table, Oscar gets this unmistakable glimmer in his bright, wide eyes. He sits, poised on his haunches, ready to jump at a moment’s notice as he attentively watches with undeniable hope for that which he is waiting.
I’ve often wondered if I have the same traces of hope in my eyes or if they just appear tired, downcast, and discouraged after waiting without much result. The waiting phase of faith is always the most difficult. Especially when it seems like others waiting for the same thing get an invisible ‘skip ahead of the line pass’. But, do you know what Oscar has taught me? He’s taught me that if I keep my gaze fixed upon the one in whom I’ve placed my hope, rather than those surrounding me and my environment, I just have to wait on my haunches and be ready for what my Hope-Master has in mind.
Can you imagine the amount of hope and faith that was tested between the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible? God was verbally silent for 400 years between the foretelling and coming of Jesus. But that doesn’t mean He wasn’t present. It doesn’t mean He wasn’t still at work. And it also doesn’t mean that everyone had given up hope for the fulfillment of prophecies about the Messiah was lost. No. Think of Simeon. And Anna. And Zachariah. And Elizabeth. And Joseph. And Mary.
Think of those who had hoped so deeply but never got to see what was promised fulfilled this side of Heaven. But they hoped anyway. They fixed their eyes on the Messiah anyway. And He did not disappoint. I imagine that the glimmers in the eyes of those souls were drawn into joyous, grand fulfillment when they were able to finally behold the evidence of what their eyes did not see on this planet preparing to be born from Heaven to Earth.
Yes, all of those folks had been waiting with baited breath for Immanuel: God with Us.
I don’t have to wait for Immanuel to come any longer. He’s always with me. For that, I am so grateful. As a child of the new covenant, I count it a privilege that I can look back upon the work that Jesus did on the cross rather than looking forward to it. I have the capability to visit the empty tomb that He left behind to give me eternal life rather than conquering doubts that it was actually going to happen, which those who had waited thousands of years for him to show up in the flesh surely faced.
Immanuel may have left us when He and His body ascended into Heaven, but His Spirit has never left us. Because of that, I can still place my hope in Him.
Like sweet Oscar, though, my eyes have to remain fixed on My Master to keep that determined presence of hope in my eye. I may be on my haunches for awhile, He may give me an answer for my hope right away, or He may tell me to simply rest. All the while, though, my eyes must stay upon Him. When hope is fulfilled, no matter what way The Master chooses to answer it, I can take that with which He graces me, and trot confidently before those whose eyes were not fixed upon Him to witness.
Immanuel has come. With all your Christmas hopes, I pray that your source for hope remains unshakable through the person of Jesus Christ. God Himself has come to be with you. He came in the flesh. While His body has gone onto glory, His spirit remains. If you answer the gentle knock upon the door of your heart and mind, He will come in to inhabit soul as the welcomed Master.
I don’t know what you’re hoping for. I don’t know how long you’ve been waiting. But I do know that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)
I know that. Oscar knows about waiting in hope too. Do you?
Look up. Hope has His eyes upon you.
Sit on your haunches if you must, but fix the gaze of your heart and mind upon Him.
You’ll find that your Master is equally your Help and your Shield and that He’s far more loyal even than man’s best friend.
And even as you wait, your heart can rejoice even faster than the wag of Oscar’s tail because of His unfailing love because Hope does not disappoint.
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)