A season of hope

4th December 2020

It’s been said that we can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air … but only for one second without hope. That may be overstating it, but it makes the point. As Dostoyevsky said: “To live without hope is to cease to live.” To hope is human.

We’ve seen that clearly over the past nine months, as hopes have risen and fallen during the pandemic, and risen and fallen again. With the roll-out of a vaccine, hopes are high once again. How we long to be free to see family and friends, to be able to resume parts of our lives. It’s that hope that keeps many going.

Christians especially are people of hope, or they should be. Along with faith and love, it’s one of the things that’s to mark us out. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians, that while love is the greatest, “these three remain: faith, hope and love.” And he thanks God for what he sees in the Thessalonian Christians: “[their] work produced by faith, [their] labour produced by love, and [their] endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is especially a season of hope. Not only do we look forward to celebrating the first coming of Christ, but we look forward to his coming again. Writing to his friend Titus, Paul says that “we wait for the blessed hope” (that is, the hope which brings blessing). And what is that hope? It’s “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” He’s our hope. He’s the one who brings blessing. He’s the one we’re waiting for.

The Collect for Advent Sunday reminds us that while he “came to visit us in great humility … he shall come again in his glorious majesty.” On that day I strongly suspect that many of the things which now seem so difficult, painful, confusing and uncertain, will seem rather trivial.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, died in 1885. Towards the end of his life he said, “I do not think that in the last forty years I have lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.” And on his deathbed he kept muttering, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Father, we thank you that the One who is coming in his glorious majesty is the One who has come in great humility. May we be those who wait for Him, patiently and eagerly. Amen.

Chris Hobbs