Advent, which begins December 2nd, is a season of hope. Although the watching and waiting builds into our hearts anticipation, hope itself is more about expectation. Hope is as clear-eyed in its observation as it is wide-eyed in its anticipation. Hope doesn’t so much beg for answers as it brings affirmation of a God who is coming, has come, still comes, and will come again. Hope isn’t potential or possible. According to the following words of Psalm 130 hope is real. And we all need that.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” The depths of despair cannot mute hope’s desperate cry to the Lord for his mercy. Neither a mile of neglect nor a mountain of fear can turn the Lord away from being attentive. He hears. He notices. You are not alone. Salvation comes, in the form of the Lord himself. Advent allows you to expect that your merciful God doesn’t want to be distant from you, no matter what you’ve done, but wants to come. Come near. Come close. Come in person, in Christ, God with us, Immanuel, available, attainable, reachable.
“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” We can hide our sins from our friends and deny our sins in public like some politicians. We can even convince ourselves that what we’ve done (or not done), what we’re doing (or not doing) isn’t all that bad. But God knows everything, watches everything, and grieves when we sin. If God were to track our sinful moments and mistakes on a ledger, an Excel spreadsheet, or a database and present them as evidence against us, we wouldn’t stand a chance. Except, the Bible doesn’t present our God as an accountant, but a loving Father. The basis for his relationship with sinners isn’t math but mercy. Love decides not to keep score, but pardons you from punishment already paid by the Lamb of God
“I can’t wait for Christmas! I can’t wait for Christmas!” Mary reminded her parents, ripping open the boxes of Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving weekend as if it would make December 25 come a few weeks early. Usually when we say we can’t wait for something, it means we must wait but don’t want to. The waiting of Advent, like much of our other waiting, is a noble suffering that is good for us. It can teach patience. It demands perseverance. It prompts hope in what we can’t control but can enjoy—the saving work of God.
Christmas, they say, is a season when wishes come true. Ha, we only wish that were true. We could make a long list of wishes unfulfilled. Christians sometimes wish for things, and that’s okay, but we know something better than wishing. We know hope. When you wish, you wish for something, not sure if it might happen. When you hope, you hope in something you already know is true.
Pastor Dean Boernke