Remember that song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”? It was a novelty song written by John Roxby. The version most of us know is the original recording by 10-year-old Gayla Peevey, which climbed to number 24 on Billboard magazine’s pop chart in December of 1953. Through the years, the song has been covered by a wide range of entertainers, from The Three Stooges to Captain Kangaroo to the Jonas Brothers.
As I’ve been thinking about this first week of the season of Advent, a hippopotamus, of all things, has been on my mind. I’ve started sketching what I think she looks like. She’s not the one Gayla sang about, though. This hippo’s name is Hope. I’m calling her, “Hope, the Hopeful Hippo.” And she reminds me of the season of Advent because it’s a season of hope.
From children hoping for that special gift, to parents and grandparents hoping to gather far-flung family members home for a visit, hope is a central theme of Advent and the Christmas season.
But the deepest hope of Advent is not the common, sometimes vain, kind of hope that we experience every day, as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain before I get the grocery shopping done,” or “I hope this checkout line I’ve committed to will move quickly.”
No, it’s an expectant hope, anticipation rooted in trusting that something wonderful is about to happen. Do you know the kind of hope I mean?
The deepest hope of Advent is based on the promises of God. Bible scholars have identified more than 500 verses that refer directly to a promised personal Messiah. The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah contains several references to Him. The promised arrival of a Savior, a Rescuer of God’s people is one of the primary themes of the Old Testament. The revelation of Jesus Christ as that Messiah—Emmanuel, God with us—and the invitation to trust Him for this life and life in eternity is the message of the New Testament.
Through Jesus, God has rescued us from our rebellious natures. The guilt and shame of our past—every decision, action, and careless word that we regret—all those and more are no longer counted against us at the very moment we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, our Rescuer. At that moment God declares us “not guilty!“ And at that moment, hope, the surest hope in the universe, comes rushing in.
Did you know that godly Hope also has a twin sister? Her name is Assurance. And they’re inseparable because wherever godly Hope is, you’ll find Assurance. So when Hope moves in at that moment of our renewal through Christ, Assurance is right there with her—Assurance of forgiveness; Assurance of eternal life; Assurance of God‘s power through the Holy Spirit to help us live the life He intends for us. Assurance that God loves us—so much.
And if you want proof of that love, look no further than a lowly manger where, more than 2,000 years ago, God sent his one and only gift of supreme love, special delivery, to light up a dark world. That’s the Hope—and Assurance—of Advent and the Christmas season.
Well, if you’ve got that hippopotamus song stuck in your head now, you might be interested to learn a little more about how it came to be, and what Gayla Peevey did after her big hit. You can do just that at her website (which may be in the running for the world’s longest URL): www.iwantahippopotamusforchristmas.net. You can also see 10-year-old (and the more current 73-year-old) Gayla performing the song in the video below.
Hope, the Hopeful Hippo just might break out of the sketchbook to become a carving in the same family as Percy the Perserving Rooster. Stay tuned!
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