Last Sunday was the first week of Advent, a Sunday when churches all over the world and throughout history have celebrated the idea that Jesus’ birth brings hope to our broken world. I love that we start our journey through this season focusing on hope. Hope means that we are still waiting. Hope takes an honest look at the brokenness of the world around us. One of the things Christians are often accused of (and sometimes rightly so) is that we take a Polyanna-ish viewpoint towards the world around us, refusing to wrestle with the difficult questions of how a God of power and love could allow the darkness and injustice that we see in our day to day lives. Starting our Advent remembering how the Jews hoped for the promised Messiah in the middle of pain and suffering allows us to do justice to the world we live in today. Pain and suffering abound and in the midst of that we hope for the coming of Jesus to make all things new. Hope exists in the tension of waiting for transformation. The guys at the Bible Project (check them out here - you really should check them out) do a great job explaining the various words used for hope in the Bible in the video below.
I love that Hebrew word “qavah”, cause we live in that feeling of tension. The pain and difficulty around us pull us one way. Our faith in a loving God who has not forgotten us and who will come to restore us pulls us the other. In that tension we wait and we hope.
One of my favourite preachers, the pastor/writer Frederick Buechner was struggling to come to terms with this difficult reality after a friend of his suddenly and tragically died. He found himself caught in the tension of “qavah”, pulled between the pain of losing his friend and the joy of having had that beautiful meaningful friendship. (Been there, done that) As he reflected on it he wrote this:
I love those three sentences. They powerfully sum up this hope to which the first week of Advent calls. We live in a world of beautiful and terrible things. But we do not have to fear. The hope we have lies beyond this world. It is deeply embedded in the heart of a God who would not leave us. A God who would take on human flesh, live and die, and in victory rise from the dead to make a way for our hope to be in something stronger than the death we see in the world.
Hope is a bold act of faith. One that doesn’t deny the suffering and pain around us, but refuses to be afraid of them, knowing that the love of God overcomes all those things. May your week be filled with a hope that runs deeper and stronger than fear.