As we come to the last Sunday of Advent, we have been through a time of preparation, of anticipation, for celebrating the Christmas season. One word that I always associate with Advent is hope. Human beings seem to have an almost inexhaustible capacity to hope. It is an enduring theme of world’s literature. The Advent Scripture readings have spoken of the hope of ancient Israel for the coming of God’s anointed one, the Messiah. We also harbor the present hope that the world will truly hear the message of Christmas, and next year will be better than last. Yet most of all, God’s word of hope come to us out of the future. God holds our future in His hands. He not only promises us resurrection life individually, he promises to his faithful a whole new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”(Rev. 21:4)
Hope has to do with imagination. The Bible is full of words of promise: promises of forgiveness and new life; promises of peace and joy. Do we allow these words to shape our imaginations and determine how we live from day to day? Hope tests us. Can we really trust God to keep His promises? Hope is closely connected to faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1) Our hope is real and is solidly grounded in God’s essential character of faithful love, told through the Hebrew scriptures in the story of God’s covenant people Israel, and through the gospel stories of Jesus, God’s Word in the flesh. As we renew our minds and imaginations with the gospel truth, this Word gives us new life, so that we can joyfully “walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116:9) It also assures us that our future is in God’s hands, now and forever. This is the promise of Advent, and why Christians can celebrate the birth of Jesus as a sign of great hope.