The Hope that Was and the Hope that Is

The Christmas wreath is an Advent tradition. This wreath contains 5 candles signifying Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, with the Christ candle in the middle. As we go through the Advent season this year, my writing each week will focus on those themes. For each theme, there is a fulfillment in Jesus’ coming at birth, and a fulfillment to come at his return.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

From the time of the fall, man has been in a state of yearning for life to be as God intended. Since their exile from Eden, God’s people were aware there was a plan for redemption. Over the centuries, God shared through prophets what to expect. The promise of the Messiah was the center of Hope for Israel. Throughout the turbulent history of God’s chosen people there was anticipation for one who would restore the people of God to their rightful place and bring order.

Isaiah, centuries before the birth of Jesus, received a message of hope from God. This message outlined what to expect in the Messiah: a coming king who is God, who rules over all with justice and righteousness, whose kingdom will never end. The promised king would bring peace instead of war, order, and justice. This gave hope to a people living in foreign lands, enslaved by rulers who conquered and gave no heed to the laws of God. God was coming to restore them and live among them! Forever! What good news this was. This is the kind of hope that sustains one through any suffering. There is victory at the end.

Freedom from slavery was promised, giving hope in a future. When the promise is believed, hope changes not just the future but the present. A glimpse of the future lets us know that what we are experiencing will pass. There is an end to suffering, and oh how good that future will be. Those who believed Isaiah’s prophecy were filled with hope and expectancy.

Fast forward to the hope we find today. We get to live in a world where we know the victory has been won on the cross. We know Emmanuel, and he calls us friends. He has sent his Holy Spirit and we walk through life with the living God. But we are still in a world plagued by sin. We are in a world that is deteriorating and we still are not home.

Jesus has said he is preparing a place for us. That is where our home is. That is our place of permanence. This right here is temporary. We could be gone at any moment. The pain we experience in this life will soon pass. The aches and pains in our bodies, the insults, hate and anger we experience, the hunger and thirst (physically and spiritually) in this world, will soon be at an end. Jesus is coming again in power and in complete victory.

Looking with hope to the return of Jesus means we cannot place our hope in things of this world. We need to realize how good that day will be when Jesus calls us home. We won’t hope to return here, because life with him will be far better than any moment here. This doesn’t mean we are not to find beauty and joy in this life. But what sustains us, what drives us, is not what we find in this life. We are not “working for the weekend”, but rather working to store up riches in the kingdom of God.

It is easy to become short-sighted. In a culture filled with instant gratification, we have lost the ability to hold to hope in anticipation. We have binge watching, fast food, and endless entertainment available to us attempting to fill our longing. But there is a longing to be home that hope of Jesus’ return is meant to satisfy. As we find rest in God, and set our eyes on his kingdom, that emptiness can be satisfied.

Life with God is what we were made for, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of our lives. Yes, he gave us purpose and tasks, and those will be there until Jesus returns. But why do we yearn for things like wealth, toys, and entertainment when they will never satisfy our longing? Don’t get me wrong, these things are not evil, but they are not what our souls are really looking for.

In this life we get a taste of what heaven will be like. We can spend time in the presence of God, and have incredible experiences where we see the power of heaven realized on earth (this is kind of what the 12 experienced with Jesus). We are able to talk with God and hear him speak. But this is all just a taste of what is to come. The more we experience these things, the more we recognize what we are longing for. This season is largely about anticipating what is to come. It is about finding hope in Jesus’ return and not what the world offers.

Take some time this week renewing your hope. Take some time to be still before God. Take some time walking with Him. Take some time in worship. Taste and see what we are looking forward to. Ask yourself, what am I looking forward to in Jesus’ return? Maybe give something up (like Netflix) for the week. That’s what I am going to do. No Christmas movies for me this week.

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