It’s Advent season. For those unfamiliar with that word or the weight of it, advent means arrival, emergence. This time of year Christians like to remember that Jesus, the God-man, stooped low and came onto the scene – to this “great terrestrial ball.” In crass terms, he entered our mess. Having created it many, many, many years ago, he was quite familiar with it. But this time he put skin on and came to visit it like one of us. This Advent season brings many emotions to the surface for me: regret, curiosity, thoughtfulness, thankfulness and wonder. However, if there is one word that comes to my mind more than others over Advent, it is the word HOPE.
This visitation is the cause for Christian hope. We can have hope because he is faithful. He came the first time, just as promised, so we can have hope that he will be coming again. We have hope that he will right all wrongs, that he will fix all the injustices and that he will, as the children’s Bible says, “make all sad things untrue.”
In the greek, the word for hope is transliterated “elpis.” It carries with it the idea of expectation. Hope, of the biblical variety, is not synonymous with wanting e.g., “I hope I get to see you soon.” knowing full well the person lives thousands of miles away and you know that you have no real plans to see the person, you just long to. Biblical hope is different. This hope is grounded in confidence that something will take place. The Christian can truly say, “I hope for Christ’s return” because her hope is grounded in a promise, not a whim. Hope is powerful and beautiful.
Hope is double-edged sword. When you hope for something, it means you, well, have to hope for something. Sometimes hope feels like freedom, but other times hope feels like a prison cell. I have been praying for someone every day for 13 years. My prayers have been full of hope. My hope is grounded in the faithful God who committed to listen to every prayer, who promised to tuck away every tear for safe keeping, and who vowed to love me. This is powerful and beautiful.
This is terrifying because hope calls me to continue this prayer. This hope calls me to live in the reality that it has not happened yet and yet to trust the Lord with it. My cold little fingers have been holding this hope tight like a guy on death row clinging to the rosary in his pocket. It scares me – this hope – because it doesn’t promise me what I want.
So this Advent, when people talk about hope, I whole-heartedly agree. I’m sure Jesus thought the Advent was powerful and beautiful.