I don’t know much about Advent. Here’s what the always helpful Wikipedia says about it:
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”.
Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.
I like that!
I didn’t grow up in a church that treated Christmas as a season, much less as one with an organized, scripted approach to the lead-up to the Big Day. Until lately my church didn’t do much, if anything, with Advent.
So this year we are forging a new tradition. Apparently liturgical churches have certain Scripture readings that go with the each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. We aren’t a liturgical church, so instead we’re receiving devotions centered on a particular weekly theme. Any guess what we’re focusing on this week? ;-)
I’ve been thinking a lot about hope in preparation for writing my blog posts. To be honest, this is new territory for me. I’ve studied faith and thought a great deal about love and grace and trust. But hope?
Now I’m alert to the topic and have begun to see how frequently Scripture addresses it.
The thing that keeps coming back to me is that line from Romans 5 about hope not disappointing. I looked at Hope And Disappointment yesterday, but in the devotion my church sent, the contrast came up again. The truth is, a lot of Christmas is about disappointment.
Maybe that’s because a lot of life is about disappointment. When you’re young, of course, you don’t realize the permanent nature of disappointment. Yes, permanent. You didn’t win the high school football championship, so you say, We’ll get it next year.
But eventually there is no “next year” for high school football, and that disappointment about missing that block or dropping that pass or fumbling that punt return will just be there.
This is true about pretty much everything. Husbands and wives, who love each other dearly, nevertheless discover that their spouse is not perfect. That she doesn’t bake cakes like Mom did is disappointing, or that she has gained a few pounds or wants to stay home instead of pursuing her career and bringing in a second income is disappointing.
He, on the other hand, doesn’t take care of the yard the way Dad did, and he doesn’t like to go out or have friends over for dinner. Instead, he seems glued to the TV every weekend. It’s disappointing.
But kids, well, there’s nothing disappointing about our children, is there? I mean, they are so cute and cuddly and innocent and sweet. So precious. Until they begin to cry. At 2:00 AM. Until they poop in the diaper you just changed. Until they take longer to walk than you thought they should. Until they tell you no. Until it’s hard to potty train them. Until they don’t like to read, and you’re a bookaholic. Until . . .
You get the picture.
What in life isn’t disappointing? Sure, there are successes—like winning that high school football championship. But that was high school. What are you doing now? And how will you top it tomorrow?
There’s always a new goal, something else that we need, someone else we wish were here. It’s a great time, but if only . . . then it would be perfect.
Along comes the Bible announcing a hope that does not disappoint. There’s a specific reason why this hope is different from all others:
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom. 5:5-6)
The passage goes on to explain how Christ’s death for sinners accomplished something we need: reconciliation with God. So here are the twin foundations of the hope that does not disappoint: God’s love (which is as eternal as He is), and the relationship Jesus made possible for us to have with God.
The one Person who loves perfectly has lavishly poured out His love and He did so, not because of anything worthy in us. Just the opposite. He gifted us when we had nothing of value to give Him.
All we bring is our imperfect selves. What He brings is a robe of righteousness—the clothes fit for a king, bought and paid for by Jesus with His broken body and shed blood—which He gives to us who believe.
And those are things—God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice—that don’t change and won’t dissipate or fade away or need to be replaced. They are forever gifts—the foundation of hope that does not disappoint.