Our Advent theme for this coming week is “Hope” – a word which we all understand, but which is slippery in meaning.
It could mean “I hope we’ll have a White Christmas” – a wish for the future, or “I hope I win the lottery”.
It could be “I hope my results will be ok” – “I hope my job will be ok” where the current uncertainty makes us unsure of the future and where we would like a good result.
It could be “I hope this covid epidemic is finally sorted” where it is a deep wish for what will happen but we don’t know when, or “I hope that x gets what they deserve” where we express a powerless wish for justice against a wrong-doer.
It could be “I hope for God’s Kingdom” where we set our sights on what is not (yet) seen.
Hope – for many there is a bit more hope with news of the vaccine, and for many the hope of keeping a job is over as Arcadia and Debenhams have both collapsed.
Advent is a season of Hope, looking forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom in its fulness, to the coming of Jesus in glory and the time of justice, peace and goodness for all. More than that, when what has got broken, damaged, destroyed, corroded, will be restored and made new and good, when the effects of sin and death will be over-ridden with the breathing (back) in of God’s Spirit.
That does not mean we will not struggle, it does not mean we do not get hurt, or down, damaged, or that we are immune to problems – far from it, we are (maybe) more acutely aware of the pain and suffering, despair and hurt around us. We do not hope that we or whoever will be immune to the damages, but we have hope that God will and does redeem and make good in His time.
It also doesn’t mean we can answer all the difficult questions, hope is a deep feeling not a rational argument, but hopes are bolstered where we have a stronger case in favour, where we can show evidence of likelihood.
But Hope is most secure if we can trust the person concerned, and Christian Hope is rooted in the person as well as the work of Christ. Hope is best rooted in the person in whom we hope, who will deliver what we hope for.
And so Advent Hope, the looking forward to the fulfilment of God’s promises is anchored in what we look back to – anchored in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, God in human form, and as we can be sure of this anchor, so we can have hope in the promises.
As we hope, we pray for those who are struggling to hope for anything good, for those who are suffering at this time, for those whose futures feel bleak, and we pray that we may bring hope, be people of hope, because hope is contagious, if we can use that word in a positive way. Being surrounded by hopeful, supportive people raises our spirits. Hearing a friendly voice, a timely phone-call, feeling connected rather than alone, can make a big difference.
Rev’d Peter Reiss: 4th Dec 2020