Romans 15:4-13: Our Hope in Daylight or Dark


A winter’s night descends as a cloak, dark and brooding. So this season turns for one, two—or uncounted others! Don’t we lament loss in the ache of emptiness? Someone dear to us is gone, and we mourn his death.

Every person experiences this sorrow, a heavy heart, the numbness, though we carry on because we must. On Christmas day, an empty place gapes at the table where we savor our meals. Despite the love and merriment surrounding us, we’re lonely for somebody missing in our lives.

To another, Christmas is a cause of mixed emotions, made lonesome and sad by family dysfunction. The Norman Rockwell images of home and hearth, of joyous harmony around the lighted tree, only highlight your broken and absent relations. Enmity and strife fill your holidays, not celebrations.

No one escapes unscarred, suffering hurt as sin’s gloomy winds descend upon us, swallowing us in darkness. These menacing currents blow not only from others but within ourselves. Too many lose themselves in envy and spite, in a bitter and angry sea. Among family and friends, we can sow discord, embracing wrongdoing as a virtue. In our worst moments, don’t we defy God and blight our neighbor with our thoughts, words, and deeds?

The Christians at Rome dwelt in dark times, a scrubby, persecuted group in a hostile environment. No-small number faced martyrdom, lions in the Colosseum, crucifixion, or beheadings for their beliefs. Despite the peril, they persevered, sometimes with only their faith sustaining them.

In their congregation, a simmering tension threatened to divide the Jewish and Gentile believers. False teachers sought to lure them away through smooth talk and faithless deceptions. A meager but influential minority pressed for Gentiles to undergo circumcision and follow the Mosaic Law to be “real” Christians.

Ancient Rome churned with danger for our Lord’s disciples. So many teetered, well-nigh on giving up, sinking into utter despair. Are we not made of the same bone and skin, similar emotions and anxieties? So, we, too, struggle in darkness and need to cling to God. May no night of melancholy destroy your faith, doubting God is with you—He is, though your feelings forsake you.

Of course, for many, Christmas cavorts into a painful dance. The sting of sadness hurts more when everything around us tells us we should be full of cheer and happiness. Worse when our hearts and heads disconnect. Doubts can arise and make us ponder, “Is God with me as He promises?”

Stop. Change direction. Don’t turn inward, with your heart becoming frigid and life growing lackluster, bereft of grace. Be generous with your time and affection, letting Christ’s love shine through you.

Easier to utter than achieve, but our hope isn’t dead in those downcast circumstances. Tell me, whom do we trust? Not ourselves, but Christ Jesus, who is always faithful. In Him, the sprig and descendant of Jesse and King David, we discover life anew. After the harrowing night of strife, He beckons forth the morning dawn.

Let’s pause for a couple of definitions. First, “faith assures us of what we hope for, convinced of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). No one hopes for what he sees, but something he doesn’t yet experience (Romans 8:24-25). An enduring hope isn’t self-made, conjured up on our own, or a pious sentiment, but a God-Spirited gift. Remember, your hope’s undergirding comes from the incarnate Son, your precious and mighty Salvation, unfading no matter how deep the night.

Your God is “the God of hope,” and the Holy Spirit’s nature, whom He sent, enlivens us with confidence for what shall be. Radiant, He dispels our dark clouds of doubt, driving away despair with hope’s bright light, consoling the brokenhearted.

This hope is as sure as its foundation—the unfailing Word of God. Isn’t this how the Spirit works and gives? Yes! Long ago, He inspired the Scriptures, “written in former days,” to assure us of God’s care. Consider Abraham and Sarah, who received the gift of a son despite their unbelief. More on this during our midweek Advent service. So, did Moses waver at every turn, but didn’t God still guide him?

No question—God will bring us through the murk and storm. How? Find the answer where Holy Writ points: to the living Word Himself. Who? The Root of Jesse, the ultimate seal and sign. The love of Jesus, our redeeming Savior, endures forever, whose faithfulness never fails.

Born into our bleak and stormy world, God’s only Son died for our despair, hopelessness, and sin. Today, our risen Lord brings us new life. The promised Root and Branch springs forth, reconciling us in our brokenness and forgiving our every transgression! Yes, He is our hope!

The Jewish Christians in Rome learned Christ is the hope of humanity, including Gentiles! So, too, we share our hopes and embrace others as heirs of Christ’s hope. Such an understanding opens us to welcome and love one another.

Hope is an unfading fire, a beacon for your soul, and embodied for you. Despondent in despair, we might not believe nor imagine this as possible. Doubt not. This reality is yours in Christ, which He provides—not you—a priceless treasure from the realm of God’s redeeming love. Come now to receive Him in His most holy Supper. Amen.