“Lose your hope, lose your life.”
Dr. Viktor Frankl
Dr. Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Years later, while writing a book about the individual search for meaning in life, Dr. Frankl shared a story about the day that he first arrived in the concentration camp. After finding a place in the barracks (though they shouldn’t really be called that), he looked over on the wall next to where he lay. Scratched into the side of the wall were the words, “lose your hope, lose your life.”
Christmas is busier than it once was. I have to assume that this busyness is a direct result of the fact that the rest of life is busier than it once was as well. Nonetheless, I found myself approaching the season of Advent this year with just a little bit less enthusiasm than last year, when I had approached the season with just a little bit less enthusiasm than I had the year before.
My enthusiasm waning, I decided to make a change. After years and years of slowly and methodically climbing up and down the ladder to hang Christmas lights around the outline of our home, this would be the first year of my adult life that the ladder would stay in the garage. For once, I would not have to go outside and endure the agony of putting up the lights.
Most of my family didn’t really care one way or another when I shared the brilliance of my newfound laziness with them. Thinking that I had won a small life-victory, I glanced at the eyes of my youngest daughter just as I was about to walk out of the room and saw something that I truly pray that I never see again.
Megan has always loved Advent and Christmas. She talks about them all year; about finding and decorating the perfect tree, about lighting the Advent wreath before each meal, and about drinking hot chocolate together outside on the front lawn as we wait for the Christmas lights to come on for the first time, just after we finish hanging them on the house.
The look in Megan’s eyes that night, normally filled with love and joy, reminded me instead of Dr. Frankl’s holocaust story; not because there is any comparison at all between the holocaust and decorating a house for Christmas. Nothing compares to the holocaust. No, that look reminded me of Dr. Frankl’s story because what I saw in Megan’s eyes that night was the loss of hope.
The next evening, I was standing outside on the roof, watching the sun sink down behind the pine trees as I stapled the last of the lights around the outline of the roof…more lights than I had ever put up on the house before. By the grace of God, there will be lights on my house until I cannot climb a ladder to put them up any longer…and maybe then I’ll hire someone else to do it.
The flame of hope only dies when you allow it to. During Advent, we anticipate the coming of Christmas, the return of Christ, because we have reason to hope. We hope because we are people of the Good News of God in Jesus Christ, people who remember that God gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life, and that more abundantly so.
So…let God reignite the flame of hope within your heart this Advent season. Put up some Christmas lights, go to a Christmas Eve Service, or buy an Advent wreath and light it each morning at breakfast. If you do, you may just find that the busyness of Christmas pales in comparison to the blessedness of hope.