The author of Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation” (Hebrews 11:1-2).
Faith has become something of a nebulous word in recent days. For someone to “have faith” is often nothing more than their possession of a feeling of optimism. Faith, however, is much more stabilizing than mere feeling… at least from the Bible’s perspective of such things.
Biblical faith is much more akin to “trust in” or “secure dependence upon” someone or something. The necessary question that must follow any mention of faith is, “Who or what are you depending on?” or “In what or who are you placing your faith?”.
God has promised to give eternal and abundant life through Christ Jesus. This is good reason to have faith that all who trust in Jesus will receive as God has promised. But there is still further assurance of the promises of God, namely that God has delivered on His promises in Christ.
Jesus Christ has come! He has lived, and He has died, and He has conquered death for all who trust in Him! Therefore, faith is an assured hope that the same God who raised Christ from the dead is working in all things to bring about His desired ends.
The prophet Isaiah laments, “Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men” (Isaiah 59:9-10).
The world we live in is not as it should be, and this is the reason we need hope. Justice and righteousness and vigor for both is not the norm among humanity today. Furthermore, this is not just a contemporary problem. Human history is replete with injustice and immorality. Even among the people of God there is weakness and brokenness, and this is why we hope.
The evidence of our human desire for justice is all around us. Our modern American vocabulary even includes the phrase “social justice warrior.” Now, the phrase may sometimes be intended as virtuous and other times used as a pejorative, but the reality that we use such a phrase at all is indicative of our desire for justice.
Our hearts break when we see injustice, and we may work towards a more just society. However, Christians know that justice is something only Christ can truly bring. We do not place our hope in a political office, a social movement, a judicial appointment, or an economic strategy. We wait in hope for the arrival of the gracious king of glory, Christ Jesus Himself, who brings justice and healing to all who embrace His righteous rule.
The psalmist sings, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).
In our modern day of drive-throughs, microwave ovens, Netflix, and DVR, it is hard to imagine that there is any value to waiting. Who wants to wait… especially for something good? But is there some benefit we are missing if we avoid waiting?
In ancient times, before the invention of infrared binoculars and high-illumination lighting, cities would have many watchmen stand guard throughout each night. There was no way to know what might be lurking in the darkness, but the watchmen would sound an alert if anything made an appearance. The great fear was that some enemy would invade under the cover of night.
In the gloom of night, these watchmen would wait for the morning to bring light and visibility. Oh, how they must have longed to see the morning sun to break across the sky! When they finally saw the brightness of dawn, their hearts must have been jubilant.
How many sunrises have you seen? Does the sight enthrall you? Do you praise God for the spectacle and celebrate with new delight? Oh, how different our perspective might be with just a little bit of waiting!
During this Christmas season, we may set our attention upon waiting for the Lord. God has promised to send the Savior, and He has made good on this promise. And yet, that same Savior has promised to come again. At His second advent, Christ shall not come as the suffering servant but as the conquering king.
May our souls wait for Him more than watchmen for the morning.
The psalmist says, “Remember Your word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:49-50).
In this world, we will face good days and bad ones. Anyone who has lived long enough can easily attest to the fact that some days are quite bad. We endure affliction from multiple sources and with varying effects.
Some suffer from the pains of bodily illness, others from mental anguish, still others from emotional distress. Some grieve the personal loss of a loved one, and others ache under the weight of needy loved ones who yet remain. Financial strain, relational dysfunction, precarious job situations, wayward children, and a slew of other crises may afflict us throughout our lifetime.
With all of this, what is the Christian’s hope? Do we hope in the words of politicians or doctors, philosophers or well-meaning friends, employers or academics? The psalmist reminds us that there is a word from God, which has the ability to create hope and give comfort… even in the midst of affliction.
What, then, is that life-giving word from God? Ah, the most glorious word from God is the promise He made to renew all things through the Savior – the suffering conqueror. Oh, such a word is blessed hope to all those who hear and believe! Though things are not now as they should be, God in Christ is making all things new! He will not leave things as they are, but He will renovate heaven and earth.
God said to the serpent of old, “I will put enmity between you and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
It is overwhelming to measure what was lost when sin entered creation through Adam and Eve. The bleakness of death, the brokenness of relationships, and the barrenness of creation itself are all results or effects of this horrific fall. In God’s poetic response to humanity’s first sin, we hear terrifying truths.
And yet… there is also a beam of hope-filled light amid that darkness! God’s first words about the future of mankind were not condemning but restorative. Before God declared the disastrous curse, He shouted the hope-giving promise of blessing!
In this ancient account of the first sin, we find the first gracious proclamation of the good news from God. He is merciful, and He promised a rescuer, a savior, a restorer. All that was lost in the fall is gained through Jesus Christ.
Jesus restores life to the dead, He restores the joy of living to the glory of God, He restores harmony in broken relationships, and He restores the heritage of an everlasting family.
In short, Jesus is Himself the dawn of hope for all who love and trust Him.
Advent is from the Latin adventus meaning “coming.” Advent is traditionally a time when Christians memorialize the coming of Christ in His incarnation and anticipate Christ’s imminent return as cosmic judge and king.
There are various themes and traditions involved with the Advent season, but the most common in the Western world is the systematic lighting of 5 candles as part of an Advent wreath or candelabrum.
Each candle represents a feature of anticipating and celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ. Hope, love, joy, and peace are the word-themes most commonly associated with the first four candles. Each is lighted in succession over the span of 4 weeks, usually corresponding with a daily reading and prayer related to the respective word-theme and Christ’s advent.
The fifth and final candle is traditionally lighted on Christmas day. This last candle symbolizes Christ Himself, and its lighting becomes the final memorial of the Christmastime expectation and celebration. This too is usually accompanied by a reading (often the Christmas story in Luke 2) and prayer.
However you keep Christmas in your family or church, may we all intend to keep it well. For Christ has come… let earth receive her King!
*For those interested, I will be posting brief daily notes through Christmas day (see the “Advent” category on my blog). These posts will correspond to the Advent calendar and may provide helpful daily readings for you and/or your family.
May God graciously give us hearts that celebrate the King who came and anticipate the King who is coming!