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Advent Hope

           As we prepare our hearts for Christmas this Advent season, we begin by focusing our hearts on the hope Christ brought into the world.  How do we persevere with hope in a world that often feels hopeless and full of hurt?  Each passing week we have seen multiple news stories highlighting the innner groaning of sorrowful families and even the groans of creation (Romans 8:22-23).  The senseless killing of image bearers in our nation and around the world, the rushing of heavy winds and flooding of many waters due to hurricanes, and the growing polarization of different racial groups due to hate-filled protest and systemic injustice.  What are we to make of this Christmas hope when the world feels so despairing?  

          1 Peter 1:3-4 says, "According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you."  Jesus Christ entered into the groans of creation.  He lived among us, He weeped with families wailing over the devestating effects of sin in this world.  He carried our griefs and our sorrows all the way to the cross.  When Jesus rose again from that dark tomb, resurrection hope came out with Him.  

           His resurrection was the foretaste of the hope to come.  This whole world will be renewed after the pattern of this resurrection.  Those who have trusted in Jesus' saving work will enter into this renewed creation with their resurrected Savior.  Isaiah 65:17-19 prepares our hearts for this resurrection hope: "17  For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress."

            This excerpt by C.S. Lewis helps us navigate through the groans of life when we hoped for so much more.  He provides three ways to respond to what seems like a world of hopelessness, where we never seem to grasp our heart's true desire (The Fool's Way, The Disillusioned Way, and the Christian Way).  Because this little baby boy was born to us on Christmas day we can hope even when the world we hoped for is not ours yet because we know it will come soon.  Let us continually set our hope on Christ and the new world to come! Come Lord Jesus, Come! 

            "Most of us find it very difficult to want ‘Heaven’ at all except in so far as ‘Heaven’ means meeting again our friends who have died.  One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education ends to fix our minds on this world.  Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize it.  Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.  There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.  The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some object that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy.  I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers.  I am speaking of the best possible ones.  There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality.  I think everyone knows what I mean.  The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.  Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right one.

(1) The Fool’s Way—He puts the blame on the things themselves.  He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever it is, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we all are after.  Most of the bored, discontented, rich people in the world are of this type.  They spend their whole lives trotting form woman to woman (through the divorce courts), from continent to continent, from hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is ‘the Real Thing’ at last, and always disappointed.

(2)  The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’—He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine.  ‘Of course,’ he says, ‘one feels like that when one’s young.  But by the time you get to my age you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.’  And so he settles down and learns not to expect too much and represses the part of himself which used, as he would say, ‘to cry for the moon’.  This is, of course, a much better way than the first, and makes a man much happier, and less of a nuisance to society.  It tends to make him a prig (he is apt to be rather superior towards what he calls ‘adolescents’), but, on the whole, he rubs along fairly comfortably.  It would be the best line we could take if the man did not live forever.  But supposing one really can reach the rainbows end?  In that case it would be a pity to find out too late (a moment after death) that by our supposed ‘common sense’ we had stifled in ourselves the faculty of enjoying it. 

(3) The Christian Way—The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.  A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.  A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.  Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.  If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other hand, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’"

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 10 on Hope