Hope has seen better days. The nation has turned its back on God. Corruption has permeated the government for years. Even the highest leaders have been accused of colluding with foreign powers. Sin runs rampant, and genuine religion has been replaced by feel good sayings and stale tradition. True believers in God are getting harder and harder to find.

As familiar as this sounds, I’m not descirbing current events. I’m talking about the situation the Hebrews were in right before the Babylonian exile. But I could be talking about now, or first-century Palestine, or pretty much any time in history.

That time of exile was a bleak time for sure. But God gave hope to his people. Through the prophets, God reminded them that he keeps his promises. Around this time the prophet Jeremiah wrote down this word from the Lord: “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It was a bleak time then, just as it was around the time of Jesus’ birth. And sometimes it feels pretty bleak now. If we focus on the circumstances around us, it seems like there’s not much to hope for at all.

Something miraculous happens, though, when we fix our gaze upwards and listen for God’s voice. That hope and future the prophet wrote about begin to fill our senses. The Wise Men saw hope in the nativity star. Joseph and Mary heard promises from an angel. If we look to God instead of the circumstances, we see promises being fulfilled every day. We hear the Good News. Hope is alive and well. And it’s on the move.

Whenever it feels like you are at your wit’s end and all hope is lost, remember those words. God has promised us a hope and a future. God has promised us a Messiah to take away the sins of the world. God has promised us the gift of Jesus.

And God keeps his promises.