What is Christian Hope?
Advent is a season of waiting, of joyful anticipation, of hope. A season in which we make the home that is our soul ready for the Holy One to move into. And I know I am not alone in these last years, in thinking a lot about hope. In occasionally finding it difficult to feel hopeful in a world that seems shot through with fear and unrest. Is hope just a naive pipe dream? How do we define Christian hope? The world in which we live tells us that hope is found in stuff (buy a new car for your partner for Christmas and your life will be complete!), or defines hope as a finger-crossing exercise or a protection against bad things happening.
Christian hope is none of these things. It is a hope that does not tell us bad things will never happen—that, if we believe hard enough, if we love God enough—we will lead charmed lives, never suffer, never be afraid. Rather it is a hope that tells us even in the midst of suffering, in the midst of hardship, in the midst of what looks like disaster, God is present. A hope that tells us, if we look back over the sweep of time, that God has been present, active, moving within human life and existence, moving through disasters, wars and rumors of wars—littering the landscape of history with people, prophets who preach hope—who push us towards justice and love, and finally decisively entering history and demonstrating perfect love in the person of Jesus Christ. Hope in Christ tells us we can wade into what look like hopeless situations, we can risk a lot—maybe risk everything, because God is with us and, no matter what, our lives will find meaning in God’s life. A hope that tells us that God desires nothing more than to be in relationship with us. A hope that tells us God is with us. And God is quietly and certainly moving the world towards God’s dream of a renewed creation in which all that lives is in right relationship with each other.
Biblical hope, Advent hope, Christian hope, is not a simple wish for the future to be OK, it is finding in the present moment a Life that leads forward and that nothing is able to stop. It is welcoming this Life into our own being and living in such a way that, even in the midst of fear and disaster, we are sowing seeds of renewal that will bear fruit in God’s time. It is discovering seeds of a new world already present if we just look with God’s eyes. It is knowing with quiet certainty that God is with us, in us, and working through us. So, this Advent, live in sure, certain, and bold hope and do not be afraid, for the God of salvation, of love, is looking to find a home within you and is with you.
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