This past Sunday marked the first Sunday of the Advent season. Advent means “arrival” and it is the time of year we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem to grow up to be the man on Calvary’s cross.
The first week of advent is marked by the word, Hope.
The Hope of Christmas Past
We often think of hope in the Christian life as, primarily, the promises we have in Jesus’ return and making all things right in this broken world, but the Advent season roots that future hope in the generations of promises already fulfilled in Jesus. Just as Scrooge’s transformation started with the vision of Christmas Past, so our hope starts with a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
It started with a promise to Eve, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15).”
Then it was a promise to Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3).”
His son Isaac inherited the promise, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him (Gen 17:9)”, and the inheritance was passed to Abraham’s grandson Jacob, “in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 28:14). Judah, the 4th generation from Abraham also was given the promise, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen 49:10).” Hope has reigned since Eden; God has not let it grow cold.
The hope of this promise continues through the prophets, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jer. 33:14-15).
Finally, we see the promise fulfilled, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations (Matt. 1:17).”
Jesus is the Christ, the promised and chosen one to fulfill and embody the promises of God; from Eden to the manger, from the cross to glory.
Christ, Our Hope
We the Church have inherited this legacy of hope. Not only hope expected, but hope confirmed by the tangible gift of Jesus, the Son of God made flesh for us. On this firm foundation we stand. God has proven his trustworthiness and we look forward with to what is to come:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:1-4).”
The hope of Christmas is past, present, and future. Without the past we have no foundation on which to build our joy today. And without God’s kept promises to the generations that came before us, we would have no basis for the hope of what is prepared for us in the future. But God’s word reminds us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:1-2).”
This advent, with so many distractions removed, we can hope in True things. In the love, joy, and peace that Jesus has brought, brings, and will bring us perfectly soon.