The Birth of Hope
Text: Hebrews 6: 18b-19a
“We who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to seize the hope set before us. We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…..”
There was a basketball coach who found himself coaching his high school basketball team in the state finals. It was half-time of the state championship, a game of a lifetime, but the coach’s team had been outplayed in the first half. They were behind by almost 20 points and the coach struggled with what to say to his players during the brief half-time intermission. He gathered his team together and began to speak;
“Each and every one of you had hoped to win this game. That hope is now diminished, and may in fact be completely gone. If you reduce everything to winning and losing, more often than not, you will be disappointed in life. It may not seem like it right now, but this basketball game is a very small part of your life; but it is a part of your life you will carry with you forever. I want you to change your thinking about this game. It doesn’t matter who wins or who loses – that is just the score. What matters is whether or not you have made a contribution. In this second half, I’m going to do something unusual; I’m going to play everybody – not just the best players, but everybody, because at the end of the night I want everybody to know that he made a contribution. Don’t pay any attention to the score, we probably will not win the game, but that doesn’t matter. I want you to be able to hold on to the idea for the rest of your lives that you made a contribution in the state finals. A contribution may be a good pass, it may mean making a free throw, it may mean setting a good screen, it may mean getting a rebound, and it may mean scoring a few points. Just go out this second half and have fun and think about making a contribution, and don’t think about winning or losing.”
As you might guess, the team listened and responded. Pretty soon they were playing together as a team in the second half. Each player focused on making a contribution; slowly the deficit began to be made up as the players passed the ball more, set screens for each other and shared the basketball. True to his word, the coach played every player that night; the entire bench made a contribution. And the team returned to their hometown as state champions.
The coach managed to shift the hope of his players from something intangible to something tangible. He moved the hope from something that seemed impossible, like winning the game, to something possible, like making a good pass. As he gave his team new hope, they could see the single step ahead of them and took that one, and then took another and another and another, until finally they worked themselves back into the game and eventually won the state title.
The coach’s words are important for us to hear today as well. I believe it is very common for many of us to view the Holidays with a competitive spirit. We have all these things we need to accomplish, this long list of chores, gifts to buy, cards to send, parties to attend, etc, etc, etc. It can be overwhelming; and before we know it, we are behind. Way behind; we will never catch up and we will never win.
Let me ask you to think about this Holiday season in terms of just making a contribution. It might be just one Christmas card that will brighten someone’s day, it may be just one present for that someone under the tree, it might just be a phone call. If you can make a contribution this Holiday season, then the season will have been a success. You will never get everything done, so why stress and fret about it? Hope to make a contribution and look and watch for those opportunities, and as you do, much will be accomplished.
You don’t have to win the Holiday game. And it is a game, I hope you realize. You don’t have to score more points than your neighbor; you don’t have to be the champion of your block. All you need to do this Holiday season is make a contribution. Find a way to give someone else a lift; find a way to give someone else some hope. If you can do that, and I think each and every one of us can; then the Holiday season will be a winner for us.
What is left undone is undone. What we didn’t get to is inconsequential as long as we took the opportunity to make a contribution. That is our hope this Christmas season, to make a contribution. It is a hope we can see, it is a hope we can accomplish, and it is the hope that has been set before us and it is the hope of the Christ Child. Don’t worry about winning the game this season, just make a contribution and change someone’s life.
If we can do that, it will in fact be the birth of hope. Amen.