"...til he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”
O Holy Night, Placide Cappeau, 1847
A child may have a thrill of hope on Christmas morning upon opening a gift they longed for.
You feel it when you fall in love and realize your love is returned,
You feel it when the long awaiting pregnancy comes or you feel your baby kick for the first time.
You feel it when you get the call confirming that the house you have been hoping for will be yours.
You feel it when the school you have been hoping for accepts you into their program.
You feel it when the long awaited job comes through.
The thrill comes when the hope you have been waiting for becomes real and you see it face to face.
Can you recall that feeling that rises up and give your butterflies or makes your heart race — that feeling of awe and goodness — a thrill of hope?
I remember preparing for a choral concert one year. My choir was to accompany a soloist on O Holy Night. Not many tried out for the solo as we all knew it required a singer worthy of the song. After listening to our director’s pleas to work harder on certain parts, I recall having a sense that if we did it right, it would make people want to fall own their knees as the lyrics implored.
And what could make us fall on our knees this advent?
What could give us a thrill of hope?
The song O Holy Night points to the answer. It shares the message of Christmas itself but in a way that you may not be used to thinking about.
The most amazing truth of Christmas is that we can see God face to face. We matter enough to God for him to come to us. When he appeared, the song tells us, the soul felt its worth. This is it! This is the good news we need. We matter to God. We are of inestimable worth to God. This is the thing that makes all the difference because when he comes, Jesus not only show us much he loves us, he promises that he will never leave us. He is going to move into our neighborhood and even more, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he is going to move into our hearts.
James Bryan Smith talks the significance of this. Each and every day, perhaps several times a day, he says we should tell ourselves: “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights,”* This is our worth. This is our living hope. This is our present reality and our assured future. We are not alone. Christ is with us today and forever more and he delights in us. He looks upon us with love. We matter enough to him, that even though he is the maker of all that matters — the vastness of all the galaxies that are so great that we have yet to discover and grasp the wonder of them all — yet he inserted himself into matter and came to us. He became real to us in a way we could understand. He became like us so we could see him and be with him. He became our living hope.** That is thrilling! We don’t have to wait to see him. We don’t have to wait to know him. We can turn to him today, knowing we matter to him. He looks upon us with love and reaching out to us in love, wanting to be with us. We can find something worth living for in him: a living hope, a thrill of hope when he appears.
* James Bryan Smith develops this ideas in his book, The Good and Beautiful You.
** see Peter 1:3-9 where he talks about Christ as our living hope,