It’s not uncommon for people at this time of the year, in addition to making resolutions, to compose a mental wish list. As we turn the page of the calendar and think about what the future may hold, we have some, often specific, ways that we would like for it to unfold. You might want a new job or for someone’s health to improve or for family members to get along better. “I wish that….” You fill in the blanks.

But wishes are usually for things over which we have no control. We know how we would like for things to turn out, but in reality they could go either way, up or down, good or bad. We’ll have to wait and see.

I don’t suppose there is anything wrong with Christians having a wish list, but there isn’t anything scriptural or theological that compels us to wish. Hoping is another matter. Our hope is based on the certainty that we are loved by God, and that, if we are committed to God’s will, ultimately our lives are blessed. Clearly, that doesn’t mean we get everything on our wish list, but that, no matter how difficult life is, God is with us. That was the explicit meaning of the birth of Christ we have just celebrated: Immanuel, “God with us.”

The Apostle Paul, in seeking to encourage Christians in Rome, wrote that through their suffering they would develop endurance, and their endurance would produce character, and as people of character they would have hope. Then he said, “Hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

I have a personal hope list related to my own development and growth as a Christian, but, as your pastor, I have a hope list for our family of faith at Parkway. I am confident that if we commit ourselves to God and to the work of the church, these hopes can become reality.

I hope that all of us develop in our Christian faith, becoming more like Christ. I hope that this year we will be more loving, more generous, more gentle and accepting. (I happen to believe that you are already one of the most loving groups of Christians anywhere, but we can always grow in this.) If you join me in this hope, you could begin by asking God to reveal the areas where you need most to improve.

I also hope we become more devoted to seeking the truth in all areas of our lives. Too often I think we have our minds made up — or let someone else make them up for us — instead of doing the difficult job of listening to facts and pondering the difficulties and implications of our beliefs. We are called by God to give over everything we have to Christ, including our minds. Let’s let him use them to move us to positions that may be difficult, but that are in keeping with his Spirit.

I hope we will all become more committed to our shared ministries at Parkway. This is not a selfish desire on my part, simply because I have some responsibility for the institution. This is based on the clear-eyed assessment that the long-term viability of the congregation will depend on each of us stepping up our involvement. Financial support is an obvious need, but far more important is our willingness to make participation in congregational life a priority, not simply something we do whenever nothing else claims our attention. I hope for more consistent attendance, more active participation, more generous giving, more solid commitment. I’m hoping we will all see how valuable and enriching our membership at Parkway is and recognize that, despite our limitations and challenges, we are all necessary if we are to be all that God needs us to be.

As I noted as I began, this isn’t a wish list. It is hope based on the certainty that, if these are the things that God desires for us, and if we are committed to seeing them through, they will be accomplished not through our strength, but through the power of Christ’s Spirit at work among us. Let us all pray to that end.