Advent Blog Series: HOPE
As one way to prepare our hearts for the Christmas season, we are introducing a blog series to examine the four primary virtues of Advent - Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Published on the first four Fridays in December, this first installment examines Hope and is written by Steve Noell.
Hope needs pain.
Without suffering, without anguish, without pain, there’s no need for hope. When shalom reigns, hope will be no more. When all things are reconciled to God and there is harmony in creation, hope will be no more. There will come a day when all we see is illuminated by the light of Christ and abundant joy flows freely, unhindered by sin or fallen, broken things.
That day is not today. Likely, it’s not tomorrow either.
There are hints of abundant joy and light; when we have eyes to see, we see them all the time. But they are not the rule. Instead, love is trampled, and there is neither justice nor equity among humanity. Relationships hurt and we struggle through our days.
Lean in; this is important, so I’m going to whisper, okay?
That’s where hope thrives.
Hope thrives in dark places, in life’s open wounds. Indeed, it is the only place hope can thrive. The hope of Christmas is now and always has been the hope of a healer. The birth of Christ was God jumping into the open wound of our lives, living there, working there. God with us. The Apostle Paul is most decidedly not talking about Christmas in his letter to the Romans, but he nails the relationship between suffering and hope so well, it is absolutely applicable. From The Living Bible, Chapter 8, verses 20-21, Paul says, speaking of the coming day when harmony is in all things:
“For on that day, thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay—the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command—will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy.”
There are thorns, thistles, sin, death, and decay. Paul is no stranger to it, nor are those to whom he writes, and he writes to us. He writes from the shadows of thorns and thistles, through the stench of death and decay, to us, and he writes of glory and freedom and enjoyment. That’s hope. That’s what we have in Christmas.
Author Rob Bell calls that “ruthless hope” (What Is the Bible?, 2017). When we think of Advent, we think of a time when we’re bleeding, when a healer has not yet come. Yet, we hope, ruthlessly. In the face of darkness, we hope. He’s coming. The healer is coming. The savior is coming. We’ve been told. We’re leaning in, leaning forward from behind the thistles, being pricked as we do, but we’ve been told. He’s coming. We’re hoping, ruthlessly. And it fills us. It turns our eyes from the present darkness and looks for a star in the east, a star to follow hopefully, ruthlessly.