December 12, 2016
Read verse: 1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Plucking this verse out of the context of Peter’s letter might lead us to think it is mostly about high-sounding issues of apologetics and debate. However, the prior verse clarifies why people would even want an explanation for why we have hope. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear…” (1 Peter 3:14).
That last phrase sounds strangely Christmas-like. “Have no fear” was part the angel’s message for Mary when announcing that she would give birth to the Messiah. Showing fear in the face of suffering is part of our natural, human response. But being prepared with hope in the face of suffering and challenge is part of God’s supernatural preparation for carrying his truth into a world that worships comfort.
No doubt Mary pictured herself giving birth to the savior in a family home, with a mother or favorite aunt coaching and comforting her. But we know how the story unfolds: a government-forced trip to an unfamiliar town leads to a humble, hurried birth in a place shared by livestock and without the aid of close family. What keeps this familiar story from sounding pitiful? The fact that in the middle of it all is a “Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
At the conclusion of Luke’s Christmas narrative, as the angels and the shepherds are exiting the scene, Luke adds this observation about Mary: “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 ESV).
The word “pondered” might be translated as “added things up.” That sounds a great deal like having hope, confidence, and trust in what God is doing, even when life unfolds in unexpected ways.
It gives added meaning to the words of an old carol, “Let every heart prepare him room….” Being prepared to answer for our hope may indeed include knowing God’s Word and being able to defend it as the foundation for our practice and faith. But being prepared also comes from transformed hearts that are willing to lean into the promised presence of God, even when earthly circumstances suggest a response of fear.
In the midst of global, national, or even personal suffering, the coming of Christ into our world is what prepares us to answer for the hope we have, based on the confidence that God’s comforting, promised presence is in the middle of our circumstances.
Sovereign Lord, give me the courage to exhibit the words and actions that reflect a transformed heart that’s prepared to defend eternal hope in a world desperate to know the light of your grace and glory. Amen.