My daughter has a lot of things on her Christmas list. She’s almost 5 and it seems like several times a week, she comes up with something new to add to her wish list. She’ll say something like, “Daddy, I want to add this to my Christmas list, I want it sooooo bad. I hope I get it.” I, of course, know exactly what she’s getting from us. Occasionally, she is actually going to get the thing she is wishing for, but many times we have opted not to buy that specific toy. Most of us can remember what this was like. We had things that we were wishing for and hoping for, but never got.
One of the words that is often reflected on during the time of Advent is Hope. It’s a word that we use frequently to describe our wishes. Like my daughter who is hoping for specific presents or when I am hoping that the Colts will be able to win enough games to make the playoffs, we are desiring a favorable outcome that we are unsure of. In terms of Advent, however, the idea of hope is much different when viewed through the lens of scripture.Hope is a future oriented concept. It calls us to think about the future, which for us is not set in stone. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, so when we express our hopes and dreams, they are built on an uncertain future.
The writers of scripture use hope in a different way. 1 Peter 1:3 says that we have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul writes to the Colossians about, “the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven.” In Titus we see that we have the hope of eternal life. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul says when Christians confront death, we shouldn’t mourn like those who have no hope. When on trial in Acts, Paul claims that it is because of his hope in the resurrection.
I could go on. There are hundreds of references to hope in the Bible. When you put them all together, there’s a theme that emerges. The writers of the Bible speak of hope in solid terms. Yes, hope points to the future, but our hope in the resurrection of Jesus and in his future return and our resurrection is grounded in certainty. Because God has promised, know what is going to happen. In his podcast, James Bryan Smith describes Christian hope as the certainty of a good future because of Jesus (Listen Here). It doesn’t just end there, however. Not only is it a certainty, but when we make hope a continual reality in our lives, then, it changes the way that we live.
God’s people lived with the certainty that a messiah would come to save them. They lived, worked, and celebrated knowing that even in the darkest moments, God was sending the messiah. We live in the hope of that same messiah, Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus is coming again to fix what has been broken and defeat death once and for all. This hope, this certainty of a good future, should change the way that we live our everyday lives. Advent is not simply knowing that Jesus will come and that all will be made right in the future, but it’s working with God now to make it a present reality. James Bryan Smith in his most recent book The Magnificent Journey writes that this kind of hope “allows us to live with a magnificent optimism.” We should be a people of hope, living with a magnificent optimism, and inviting others to live in the light of this living hope.
This week, I want to encourage you to reflect on the hope of Jesus’ coming. What does it mean for you that even in this middle of the world’s darkest days, we can be certain of what God is doing and will do in the world? What would it look like for you to live optimistically and hopefully, knowing for certain that we will have a good future?
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.