Advent 2017: Hope

Growing up, my favorite day of the year was Christmas. My second favorite day of the year was Christmas Eve. In fact, it seemed as though I looked forward to Christmas Eve just as much as I looked forward to Christmas.

There’s something about Christmas Eve that I find unique to every day of the year, even Christmas. The last errands before Christmas; final gift wrapping; the Christmas Eve service at church; going to bed hardly unable to sleep because of the eagerness for the next day. If I could sum up Christmas Eve in one word, it would be this: anticipation. The anticipation for the following day makes Christmas Eve exciting, enjoyable, and unique.

Webster’s definition of hope is “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” When you hope for something that will become a reality in the future, you have anticipation for that which you hope for. When I was dating Laura (who is now my wife), I had hope that we would become husband and wife one day. I was anticipating a future reality (being married to Laura) in the present reality (dating Laura). What examples in your life can you think of when you had an anticipation for a future reality (i.e. graduating from school, getting that entry level job at your dream organization, getting married, etc.)?

When we hope for something, when we look forward in anticipation for a future reality, we live differently. Anticipation for a future reality affects how we live in the present reality. Every year I had anticipation for Christmas on Christmas Eve. If I didn’t, if I did not have hope for Christmas being the following day, I would simply open the presents under the tree right away, rather that hold off in anticipation for the future.

Hope is a key element to the story of Christmas. The birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of the Jewish hope for a Savior and King. Jesus was born into an interesting political climate. He was born into a Jewish society that had hope for a savior (their word was “messiah”) who would rise up, defeat their oppressor (who at the time was the Roman Empire…yeah, that’s quite a powerful oppressor), become their King, and restore their nation, bringing peace and blessing forever.

Jesus birth was the fulfillment of hope. That is why hope is a part of advent. Jews for centuries had an anticipation for this coming “messiah.” However, the story takes an unexpected turn: Jesus gets handed over to the Romans, and is killed. Hope diminished. Could you imagine being an oppressed Jew, hoping this man named Jesus would be the man to make all things right in the world, but then got killed by the very people who are inflicting oppression upon you? The word “bummer” does not do justice to what the Jews at the time must have been feeling.

However, the story takes another unexpected turn: Jesus resurrected from the dead. Hope resurrected. Hope that was once realized, then lost, was then resurrected.

And guess what…the story is not over. The hope of Jesus followers everywhere is this: That what God has begun in Jesus, will happen to us, and God will make all things right in our beautiful yet broken world. Have you ever opened a present on Christmas Eve? It is as if the future is breaking into the present with a present. The one gift you open, is a foretaste of what is to come the following morning. There is a passage in the Bible that describes the resurrection of Jesus being the foretaste of the future (it is described as “the first fruits,” which I like to call “the Christmas gift opened on Christmas Eve”). It goes like this:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep [this is a euphemism those who are dead]. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.  (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

This may be new to you, confusing, weird, or hard to believe. But I want to leave you with this: Hope, our anticipation for a future reality, affects how we live in our present reality. So, in this Christmas season, whether it be a season of great joy, or a season of great pain, my encouragement is for you to take hold of hope, and allow it to shape how you live your life. This hope is that God is not done. The story is not over. There is an incredible future with King Jesus that awaits us.

So may you, as you go through the ups and downs of your week, have the courage to take hope, live in hope, and extend hope to those who need hope.

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Eating lots of food and looking at pictures of puppies are couple of ingredients to David's perfect day. The driving passion of David's life is walking alongside people as they figure out what it means to follow Jesus today. David holds a B.A. in Psychology from Vanguard University and an M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology. He currently works at Mariners Church in Irvine on the High School Ministry team. David lives in Costa Mesa, CA, with his amazing wife Laura.