During the four Sundays of Advent, that is the four Sundays preceding Christmas, we light one candle per week in keeping with some church traditions. Each candle represents a virtue that Christians believe God the Son’s advent, His coming as the man Jesus of Nazareth, should instill in us.
These four virtues are in order: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Today I want to reflect on how Advent instills hope in those that receive with faith God the Son born Jesus, born 2,000 plus years ago of the Virgin Mary.
Now, to the person that believes in Jesus, all of these virtues are gifts—we cannot instill them in ourselves, they must be given. Certainly this is true with hope!
I must clarify what I mean when I use the word “hope”. When the New Testament writers uses the word hope as one of the three central virtues of the believer in Christ, along with faith and love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13)—they do not mean what we typically mean when we use the word hope.
For we use hope like this, “I hope I win the lottery”, or “We hope our football team can find a way to beat that team”. When we use hope as an action word, we define it like this: to wishfully long or want something.
Yet for Paul and others, the word hope was certainly much stronger. It would mean something much closer to: waiting with strong confidence for a desired outcome. Hope for them was not simply wishful thinking, but rather a confidence that their hope, seeing Jesus Christ return from the realm of heaven to earth to make all things right would happen in their life time, and even if it didn’t they would still see Jesus in due time.
The first Christians had such strong hope precisely because of the inconceivable works accomplished by Jesus. These works include: the God who had no beginning being born and becoming human, the God who was eternal dying, and in the dying crushing death by rising from the dead to ascend to the heavenly realm at the right hand of the Father along the way promising to return. These were the actions they were witness to—and thus to hope that Jesus would come back like He said, was not like hoping for a one in one hundred million shot, but simply placing confidence in the most powerful person they could imagine and most trustworthy person they had ever known.
Jesus gives us hope at advent, because His first coming proved He can and will do what He says and thus that a second advent will happen. Like the first Christians, whether it happens now or later is of no consequence, for we hope that we will see Him soon. Contrary to wishing that the Bears will not dissapoint, this hope we believe will not dissapoint.