Hope. It is the first week of Advent, and we light the Hope candle. We light our candles and scroll through our news feed, watching a world that looks hopeless, wishing somehow that the flickering light would take away all the darkness. This is the first year that I have really felt it--that longing for Christ's return for good. I sat in church on Sunday and wished that God would come and make it all right again.
As the week has gone on, I have had that quiet refrain of hope playing in my heart and in my head. Mingling there with all the rest of what the world is offering. And what has come from that is the idea that we are looking at hope all wrong. Hope often doesn't feel like enough in the face of great suffering. Hope feels like a wish on a birthday candle or on the first star at night--a nice sentiment, but nothing really true, meaningful, or effective. But hope, in fact, is more than a wish. It is maybe even the opposite of that. To hope is to know, with full assurance. In my quick searching of the interwebs (Bible scholars avert your eyes) I can see that in the Greek, hope and expectation are the same. So when we say that Christ is our hope, what we are really saying is that we expect him to make good on his promises. We can count on God to be who he says he is and to do the things he claims he will do.
Just as we expect that the sun will rise each morning, we can expect that God's work will be done and that all the goodness and restoration he promises will come to pass. For me, the believing--the hoping--is not the hard part. It is the waiting that feels burdensome. Why are we waiting? Couldn't Christ come back at any moment and make every broken thing new again? I imagine that we will wrestle with this question as long as we live this side of Heaven. But waiting is not strange to God. Christ waited. He waited in the tomb for three days. When God created the whole earth, he didn't separate the light from the darkness and then declare it would be light forever. For every day of creation, "evening passed and morning came," and only then was the next day.
I think we can even take our cues about this waiting from science. If you read popular scientific opinions on the purpose of sleep, experts will say it is unclear. No one can really pinpoint what exactly is happening when we are asleep. But they can all say that without sleep, the body will die. There is no definitive answer except to say that this period of rest, of waiting, is crucial to our health. Perhaps it is the same in our collective life on Earth. We are waiting in darkness, and we can't see the work that is being done. We are unaware of the restoration that is happening. We don't know the mind or the plans of God. And it is in his great mercy that we are enduring this waiting period at all.
Because as we wait and hope for his return, we can have assurance--hope--that he is bringing about the fulfillment of his plan for us.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
This light--it is not a wish. It is a promise, and a hope. Let us trust in his goodness and in his faithfulness to us.