God is sometimes described as ‘the hope of Israel’, ‘its Saviour in times of distress.’ (Jeremiah 14:8, see also Jeremiah 17:13). Hope can be hard to define, but Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” Jeremiah, another prophet who lived in the difficult days immediately before exile and then during exile, reminded the people that God’s plans for them were still good, even when it didn’t feel like it: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jer 29:11)

Jesus was born in difficult times, when Israel was being ruled by the Romans and people felt oppressed and enslaved. He was that visible reminder that God’s plans for His people were still good. He is still that visible reminder to us that God has good plans for our lives. Trust is what keeps us hoping. We trust that God is who He says He is and that He will do all He has promised, because He is faithful.