“Whatever things were written beforehand were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.”
We Christians are to live in hope. Advent is all about this thing called hope. We do not live in despair, which is the opposite of hope. Hope says that God has something good in store for us in the future.
God is both the Source and the Goal of our hope. He sends it through His Spirit, the Comforter, speaking through His Holy Word of consolation. He says that our future is in Christ, who died and rose, and therefore our future is life and resurrection. So God has insured for us a place with Him in the new heaven and new earth.
But hope is not seen. It is hidden in the future. It must be believed. This is difficult for us fleshly, sinful creatures. Instead of the God of hope who must be believed, we naturally clutch at idols and false gods that can be seen and touched. But these gods and their material rewards do not deliver true hope.
This is not to say that God is against material things. They are, after all, His creations meant for our benefit and enjoyment. But if we set our hope upon the here and now, then we abandon the true Christian hope.
We can see an example of this as the world collects and hoards every here-and-now idol they can at Christmas time. These are not necessarily materialistic and greedy idols. Sometimes it is the warmth of emotion that flows from family. Sometimes it is the joy of giving. Sometimes it is the rush of happiness that comes from sentimental memories. Sometimes it is the pleasure of singing familiar carols or hearing music that lifts the spirit. In these, many put their hope and trust. These are the things that make the holiday. If they are not present, the day is dreary and cold.
In what do we put our hope? As we are faithful and directed by God’s Spirit, we look to the coming of Christ to take us home. We look to the gifts He gives in His House. We look to the fulfillment of blessings yet to come, purchased by the Blood of the Son of Mary.
But we are not always faithful and directed by God’s Spirit. Sometimes, our sinful flesh steers us to put our hope in the things of this temporary world. We think our life is complete if we have them, and if we do not, then our life is empty and sad. They are probably good gifts from God, yet we elevate them in our minds to a level that they should not occupy.
Earthly hopes eventually disappoint. They are false hopes after all. They lead to fear and despair, since nothing of this world lasts forever.
So let us not look around at this world to find our hope. Let us fix our eyes on the God of hope.
He gives hope by speaking to us from His Scriptures. In these Scriptures He teaches patience. We do not have to have everything we want right now, because we know that God is our loving Father who will care for all our needs. So we can wait, instead of rushing ahead, for His right time to receive blessings. God will order all things rightly for us. Unlike an impatient child, we do not need to sneak ahead to open presents too soon. We can depend upon God that everything will happen at the proper time to satisfy our desires, so long as we do not make our desires into covetous grasping that craves earthly satisfactions. In patience, we do not need to grab as many things as we can. We can let go of some things, because we know that God will give us enough, and more than enough. Indeed, we could surrender everything to Him, if need be, for the sake of the divine Word.
To show us what patience is, He shows us His Son, who endured all things. Christ trusted His Father even when human reason would say that all was hopeless. He endured all and suffered all.
In the same way, faithful Israel patiently waited for Messiah to come. Although many lost hope and fell away, those who watched for the redemption of Israel did not lose patience. May we be so faithful in patience and hope.
The God of hope also give comfort in His Word. There are indeed troubles that afflict us. There are needs that He allows to go unanswered for a time. There are wounds that heal slowly, or not at all in this life. So He speaks tenderly to us. He reminds us that the sheer magnitude of His love has been proven beyond a doubt upon Calvary. He reminds us that His grace is sufficient for us in the weakness we must endure. He speaks to us again and again, although we deserve not a single syllable from His divine lips. He recognizes our weakness and sympathizes with our struggles, since He lived some thirty years through the same and worse.
So He says to you today, “I still love you. I will always love you. Do not despair. All things will work out for good for you. I have seen to it, and made every preparation through My Son. Therefore hope in Me. I will not disappoint you. You cannot imagine the wonder and joy of what is coming, sooner than you think. Then this dark valley of deep shadow will be but a memory, as I bring you into the light of eternal glory.”
Brothers and sisters, He is faithful. He will keep His promises to you. Therefore be patient, and wait upon the Lord. He will deliver you.
In His Name, and to His glory alone. Amen.
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