We’re in the season of Advent. We’re preparing ourselves for the advent, the arrival of the Messiah. While the culture busies itself to salute Santa, the church readies itself to receive its Savior. Santa and Christmas fun are all good. But the reason for the season is to prepare a place in our hearts, a blessedness in our relationships, and a welcome in our world for Jesus Christ.
How do we do that? By being more loving and generous; by sharing with those who suffer. We know how to do this. We just need to do it. The bigger challenge, though, is something we mostly don’t know how to do: and that is how to have hope.
As we age, we lose the easy optimism of youth. Time changes us. The world beats hope out of us. So, we adapt and do our duty, but hope can be hard to find. Look at the news: We thought the pandemic was waning, but here’s Omicron. Our familiar world has been changed forever. Given that grim reality, hope seems like your grandmother’s china, too delicate for everyday use. Best to be left alone, admired but irrelevant.
But think again: Despair, which is a sin, always appears wiser than hope. But if you take God’s Word seriously, then as Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, you are “a prisoner of hope” — because God is gonna get what God wants when it comes to this world — and you.
Jesus is the invasion of Hope into this world. The One who was born in Bethlehem’s barn and who suffered on Calvary’s awful tree and who rose in victory on Easter was, is, and forever shall be Emmanuel — God with us, which changes everything. When God’s in the mix, all bets are off. You don’t know what is gonna happen — except for this: You can trust that God will make it good. Trusting that is true and living your life accordingly is what the Bible calls hope — which is our calling, task, and joy: To be alive in expectation, goodness, and love.
Laura knows all about that. She has Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Her bone marrow doesn’t produce healthy blood. Currently, she’s going through chemotherapy in the hope that she can be cured. Her brother Robert has offered to donate his blood to save her. Robert’s blood will be harvested and its stem cells transferred to Laura. Robert’s stem cells in Laura’s body will stimulate her bone marrow to again manufacture healthy blood, and that will save her life. Currently, Laura is in the hell of chemo, but she holds onto hope, knowing that Robert’s blood will save her life.
Like Laura, we, too have a brother who has offered his blood to save us. Christ, our brother, gave his blood, life, love, and essence to transform our death by his life. When we welcome Christ into our heart, into the marrow of our being, Christ’s salvation begins working within us so that we come alive in him and for him. His Way, Truth, and Life — his Love — enables us to be loving and to live as a new creation, which death will never destroy.
Yes, life is often hard, hellish, and hollow. But God is good. Christ, our Redeemer, has done and is doing what needs to be done to make us live. In our suffering, we’re never alone — because the One who was born 2,000 years ago is the One who is here right now so that you can be born again and again and again: Forever borne by God’s tender mercy out of the darkness of death, disease, and disaster into the dawning of God’s light, life, and love.
So, in the midst of your darkness, don’t give up. God is on the job and God is not done with you yet. And when you see a neighbor suffering, get up and join God in lifting them up. While hope involves emotion, hope essentially is a practice. Get in motion to bless someone else. As you do, you will activate hope; incarnate hope; bear hope; birth hope into this world. That’s what God has done and is doing. That’s what we are to do as well. That’s Advent. That’s the discipline and the delight; the assignment and the adventure of Advent and of all our days.
Hope isn’t foolish. It’s faithful. Hope is here because God is here. And the God who began a good work in you will surely bring it to completion. Let’s all trust that and get busy. Now is the time to live.