Sunday, December 2, 2007

Advent 2007 / Daily Doses of Hope - #1

Read: Matthew 24:36-44 and Romans 13:11-14

STAY FOCUSED. Begin with a commitment to explore Biblical hope throughout the Advent season (December 2-24). Granted, hope is usually the topic of just the first week of Advent. The season moves on to other great themes, movements and graces: faith, love, peace and joy. But for this year, let's keep our attention on hope. There is much more to this future-focused grace than we usually acknowledge.

NOT A "DESTINATION" GRACE? It is the nature of hope to point beyond itself. Ordinarily, hope is what we talk about momentarily on the way to something else, on the way to fulfillment. We hope for something else to happen. We don't typically experience hope as a "destination" grace. We don't usually think of hope as something which we receive or in which we live. We tend to look at it as a transporting grace. It's more like a vehicle that gets us from here to there. It's what we experience in the meantime, in between times...or so we think.

WHERE WE LIVE. Hope is where we live most of the time. It occurs to me that while fulfillment may be rapturous and completing, we spend 90% of our time in the realm of hope. Whether holding on to fragments of hope in dark times or brimming with anticipation of an upcoming celebration of grace, much of our lives are lived in expectation. We live much of our lives in between promise and fulfillment.

WHAT WE BECOME ALONG THE WAY TO FULFILLMENT. We are shaped by hope. And it is what happens in these sometimes long in-between times that shapes us and determines outcomes. We are not just marking time when we live in hope. We are changing, we are becoming, we are being transformed even as we live in hope. That's what Paul is writing about in Romans 5. Yes, we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (verse 2), but we can also rejoice in our "in the meantime sufferings" because they are are shaping us. Perseverence and character are being developed "in the meantime." Hope itself (not just as a vehicle to transport us to fulfillment) is being formed and strengthened in us.

GOD'S SPIRIT IN THE MIDST OF HOPEFUL LIVING. I love what Paul says next: "And hope does not disappoint us." God doesn't leave us hanging with just a promise of some future fulfillment. For those who believe God's promises in hope, God gives the Holy Spirit--God's very indwelling presence--as an assuring "deposit" for however long the journey toward fulfillment might be. So, we are exploring not just "hope so" existence. We're aren't left to live by mere dogged determination or to "hope against hope." We are exploring a "living hope." Hope not only gets us where God promises to take us, it is the life we live all along the way. It's going to be--and is--a great journey!

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