The season of Advent marks the beginning of the new church year. This first of this four week season is rooted in the theme of hope – looking backward to God’s past faithfulness in order to look forward today to what God is already doing in the world.
In preparing the weekly ESL Class our church helps teach in Oakland I was preparing a lesson on the difference between goals, hopes, and wishes.
I encountered a lesson plan explaining that goals are things we want in the future that we actively pursue, whereas hopes and wishes are ones that we don’t actively or intentionally bring about.
Another lesson plan said that hopes and wishes are the same things: situations that we desire but which are the opposite of current reality or which are impossible.
The author of the book of Hebrews writes
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 11:1
The poet behind Psalm 130 writes,…
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
Biblically speaking, hope is less a crossing-of-the-fingers than it is an ardent longing for something to happen or to be true, that could emerge or be true. It’s not a closing-of-the-eyes to blow out a candle but an opening of one’s eyes to see what truly is, what is breaking into our world, what the world is pulled towards in the troubles of today.
My friend Cecelia who wore this hat to church on Sunday knows hope. She knows trouble. Hardship. Pain. Loss. She also knows that they don’t have the last word in life.
That’s what the prophet Isaiah points to poetically in saying,
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Advent then is about seeing despite what we see, beyond what we see, acting upon it, living into it, trusting in it.
What hope opens your eyes today, invites you to move into the emerging future by remembering past faithfulness?