The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
HOPE: The key word for the first week in Advent is “Hope.” Hope is best understood in the context of faith, because – like faith – hope has to do with belief that is rooted in something real and substantial.
Faith comes out of a combination of belief, and experience, and trust, and the echo of something that is knitted into our DNA – both the truth of our creation and the cumulative witness of the ages. Faith comes into focus most clearly when we live into it, when what we believe also becomes what we know, and what we did not yet understand finds its voice – and eventually its comprehension – in our faithfulness; faith does not make us more knowledgable so much as less constricted.
TRUST: Hope is like faith in that it is strongly related to trust, and trust that is proven time and again becomes knowledge.
I first learned to trust God as a young child; then I grew into faith; and faith together with trust is the raw material of my hope.
I was thinking about hope and promise when our daughter, Naomi, posted this photograph on Facebook. Taken in December 1986, on Christmas Eve, it’s the image that best goes with my story, The Case of the Missing Magi.
It’s also a great image to go with the word “Hope.” You see, Rebekah and I were young parents then (we’d just turned 30), and we had real, substantial, tangible, faith-based hope for Andrew and Naomi, and how they would grow as loved, blessed, responsible, joy-filled children of God.
It wasn’t wishful thinking, but solid hope. There’s a difference: wishful thinking counts on luck, fortune, and the right circumstances, while hope has more to do with faith and faithfulness. You see, we didn’t hope their lives would be easy, we had hope that they would become people of faith, that they would follow Jesus, and that their lives would be meaningful.
FAITH: So then Naomi – who must have been reading my mind – posted this follow-up image from a few months ago…
Believe me, there has been a lot of water under the bridge since 1986. Not just a lot of water but a lot of other stuff too. But we walked though it all together; sometimes in joy; sometimes in crisis; sometimes whistling in the dark; sometimes in prayer; sometimes holding hands; sometimes not; sometimes we walk by faith and not by sight.
PROMISE: But always in hope. This is the nature of the hope that came into the world with Jesus. Not hope that things will be easy, but hope and faith that we are not alone, and that – by the grace of God – we will see the sun rise in the morning.
Hope and faith and trust don’t make things work out neatly, tidily, the way we want them to. That’s wishful thinking. But hope is the promise that we are God’s children, that God loves us completely, and that not even disappointment, or grief, or even death will ever separate us from that love.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39
It’s the first week of Advent. Hope has come into this world! Hope that can literally transform us.