Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, TX, observed in a recent column, "In 1997 an article appeared in the journal published by the American Heart Association. It pointed to the negative physical consequences of hopelessness. The article essentially said that those who had experienced extreme feelings of despair had a 20-percent greater increase in arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) over a four-year period. Other studies also have connected hopelessness with heart disease, heart attacks and death.

"What happens when hope is gone? Despair sets in! Depression takes hold. Productivity in life declines or ceases altogether. . . .

"But I have great news. Despite the studies and the articles, hopelessness is defeated. We have a sign of hope that we all can embrace. WE HAVE HOPE IN LIFE. What is our sign of hope? As we enter into the Christmas season, the world is reminded once again that hope has come, and we read about the sign of hope in the Scriptures. Isaiah 7:14 reads, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." The Son of God is the sign of hope for the entire world.

"You see, Jesus' name really means, "The Lord saves." In Isaiah 7:14, the name Immanuel means, "God with us." Jesus is our sign of hope because he saves us and is with us in our hopeless situation. In fact, Jesus saves us from every kind of hopelessness. He saves us from sin. He saves us from death. He gives us wings to rise above the storm or gives us strength to stand in the storm. Through Jesus, we have hope in life because he is with us in the midst of our hopelessness and delivers us from hopeless situations."

(To read the entire column visit http://www.baptistpress.com/bpcolumn.asp?ID=815)