Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Here we are at another Advent season—when we commemorate the anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. To set the scene biblically, it was a time of great darkness in the earth, and more specifically in the Jewish community. They had been waiting for the arrival of their Savior with the expectation that he would turn the tables of their misfortunes. Exile, captivity, oppression, the pervasive humiliation of second-class status—over time, these feelings compiled to birth consensual hope that this Savior would overthrow the Roman empire and bring restoration.
In our passage of scripture from 1 Peter, the word hope is defined, by the lexicon, as desire of some good with the expectation of obtaining it. As society anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, the general consensus was a desire to see this Savior produce a favorable and life-changing outcome for the children of Israel. A shift in how they lived, where they could go, a hope in a better tomorrow that could erase the shame of today. And understandably their hope focused more on the status of their lives on earth, rather than the spiritual realignment that Christ would ultimately bring. Nonetheless hope was abounding and bubbling in the Jewish society. Simeon, a faithful and devout man, would find his hope rewarded as he had the chance to bless Jesus as an infant, when Mary brought him to the temple for customary dedication (Luke 2:22-35). Likewise, Anna had steadfastly served in the temple for decades and, at eighty-four years, had finally seen her hope fulfilled when she caught a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 2:36-38). Both of these people had a resilient hope—a hope that would rebound amidst years of waiting, doubtful dark days, even when they had to hope alone. And then you had Mary, the unsuspecting young virgin who would mother the world’s Savior. When the angel first appeared to Mary to announce that she would give birth to the savior, hope was conceived at this point. Yet Mary displayed a different type of hope—living hope.
Living hope is a more active type of hope—a contagious hope. One that is lively and a hope that has the ability to quicken the hope in others. Mary had a confident trust in God that she would indeed carry a child immaculately. And the fulfillment of her living hope would cause the world to hope again for a redemption that we had never known and didn’t deserve. Mary had living hope.
I recently had a conversation with a Pastor who lamented that preachers today hardly proclaim the fact that Jesus is coming back again. She was frustrated by the overwhelming number of messages on the “here and now” for the believer, that seemingly eclipsed the reality that this journey is also about “life after life.” As I reflected on our conversation later, I not only agreed with her, but I began to ponder the implications that it had on our ability to hope. I wondered how often we have misplaced hope in shortsighted, quick fixes with an exclusive desire for material things. Have we become so consumed with making it through the day, that we have forgotten that Jesus is coming back? Our passage of scripture, when put in context with the rest of the chapter, encourages us to have a living hope in the revelation or return of Jesus Christ. Such a living hope is displayed through embracing a life of surrender to Christ and holiness in preparation for his return. Simeon and Anna had resilient hope that equipped them to steadfastly wait for the promise. And it was Mary’s living hope that not only birthed the Messiah but also reignited hope throughout the world for a better tomorrow. In this first Sunday of Advent, and every day, we should be carriers of living hope rooted in the reality that Jesus will come back again. This living hope ought to be so contagious that it causes those around us, who sit in darkness, to find strength to also hope for Christ’s return.
God, thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the hope that you gave us through such a precious gift. As we commemorate the birth of your Son, give us a living hope that helps us look forward to his return. Let our lives reflect this conviction. Let our words be consistent with this reality. God let our hope be living and contagious so that we may all await the return of Jesus. In Christ’s name, Amen.