By Clay Myatt
This week, we are beginning a sermon series on Luke 1-2 to celebrate Advent. So our letters for each of the next few weeks will take a different Advent candle and give a brief reflection on its theme. Today, I’d like to share some thoughts on the biblical idea of hope.
In our modern English, the way we often use the word “hope” is to express our longing for a certain event to happen, such as, “I hope Vanderbilt has a good football team this year.” Of course, just because we hope something happens doesn’t mean that it actually will. In the Bible, the word “hope” does include the longing for something to happen, but it also maintains that the things we are called to place our hope in will come to fruition.
In the Old Testament, the hope of Israel was the coming of their Messiah, the king who would establish an eternal kingdom and reign with justice and righteousness. And when the curtain opens at the beginning of Luke, we meet a number of people who are hoping for this coming king: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, shepherds, angels, Simeon, and Anna. This is why there is so much joy and singing in these first two chapters – this hope that had been deferred for hundreds of years had finally been realized in the birth of Jesus.
Two thousand years later, our hope as Christians is not all that different. Yes, the kingdom of God has come in Jesus, but we still await the day when this king will return to ultimately restore creation and vanquish all who contest his reign (Rev 19-22).
This is a particularly important word for us in the midst of the holiday season. I think the holidays can be a reminder to many of things they have longed for that haven’t happened: a reconciled family relationship, a meaningful job, a romantic relationship, physical healing. It is not wrong to long for these things or even to ask God that they might happen. But at the end of the day, our ultimate hope must be in the return of Jesus. To use an Augustinian phrase, we must “reorder our hopes” so that our deepest longing is for the only thing we can be certain of – namely, that Jesus will return – which, amazingly, is the best possible reality.