I had a friend who thought hope was “wussy.” He preferred physical action to hope, which he defined as waiting for someone else to solve your problems. I dearly loved my friend, but I disagree with him when it comes to hope.
Like my friend, we may think of hope as doing nothing, being totally passive. Alternatively, we may see hope as something we have to work up in ourselves or manufacture in our mind. I don’t think either of those is the hope of the first Sunday of Advent. Advent Hope is actively receiving the promises that God has made throughout Scripture. It is actively trusting that God will be good to God’s Word.
Listen to the promises of Advent Hope in this amazing passage from Isaiah 65. I’ve underlined a few of the especially parts.
Isaiah 65:17–25 (NRSV)
17 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Walter Bruggeman, in his Advent devotional, “Celebrating Abundance” wrote, “God will be like a mother who hears and answers in the night, knowing before we call who is needed and what is needed. And we shall never be left alone again.”
It can be hard to hope in the midst of a pandemic. Many have lost friends and perhaps family. Many are isolated, lonely, or unemployed. Many are reminded daily of the oppression and racism they have endured throughout their entire lives. These are times that hope can seem like a rapidly evaporating vapor.
This Advent season, I am trying to focus on simultaneously holding contrasting ideas together. We hold the pain and adversity of our current world. We don’t ignore it, we recognize it with eyes wide open. We lament to God about the state of our world. But simultaneously with that pain, we also hold the hope given to us in God’s promises. As one author suggested we “yield to hope.” I like that. To me, it means that we actively trust in hope, in God’s promises. This is an action, but an action based in God’s promises, not in our own strength. We trust in the birth of Jesus, God’s bright candle of hope in the shadows of our world.
I don’t think hope is wussy at all. I think hope is active, hope is strong, hope actively calls upon God to fulfill His promises, actively yields to God’s vision of the Kingdom. Come, Lord Jesus, come.