Advent: The Great Anticipation; The Great Arrival.
In your world, what are you desperately waiting on? The arrival of who, or what
What has you on the edge of your seat, burning a hole in your calendar?
Another way to put it…in what/who are you putting your hope?
What future thing is going to bring you what you need? To cure your loneliness, boredom, anger, fear, shame, guilt? We all stand on a foundation of hope:
- Hoping I have enough to pay my bills
- Hoping I’ll find love (or that I won’t lose the love I have)
- Hoping my medical report turns out ok
- Hoping I don’t get found out as the fraud I am
- Hoping my kids turn out ok
- Hoping my theology and morality is “good enough”
We are constantly immersed in some kind of hope, and very little of it (if any) is actually under our control (which causes fear, but more on that next week).
2000 years ago there was an impossible anticipation for the coming Messiah, but all logic told them that it wasn’t going to happen. There had been a few hundred years of (seeming) Divine Silence. By all human accounts, God had chopped down all the trees of hope and promise, leaving a lifeless clear-cut forest; leaving us alone and on our own. We see this in Isaiah 9 as God warned His people of their impending exile into slavery.
So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day—
For them, and for us, all signs pointed to justified abandonment by God. BUT…what about God’s promises? Would he, could he, be true to his word to never forsake us? To come rescue us? Even when we’ve gone way too far. When we’ve abandoned him? Abandoned each other? Abandoned our own dignity and value?
Into this desperation comes Isaiah 11
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
The stump of Jesse: King David’s father. The family tree of God’s promises had been cut down and lay rotting on the ground. Dead. Hopeless.
And then…a sprout. Life. Hope. And not just hope, but a branch that would produce fruit…MORE life. God created a way where there was no way.
This is The Immanuel. The rightful perfect Branch that not only came from the cut down trunk, but (as we see in 10) is also the ROOT of the tree itself. Jesus is the Great I AM; present and instrumental in creation; present and intimate right here and right now; present and sovereign in what is to come. It isn’t that Jesus simply brings us hope, Jesus IS our hope.
And so now, during this Advent Season, we begin the seemingly impossible task of dislodging our chaotic minds and hearts from lesser hopes in this world — hopes that are real and very often very important, for which we are called to pray and pursue — and then to be lodged into the The Greater Hope of Christ. Dislodged from merely hoping for better circumstances and securely hoping for the Savior that has already come into our darkness, lived among us as the “God With Us” and died in order to crucify the hopelessness of Sin, Fear and Death, only to miraculously resurrect (another impossibility that the Lord overcame) and thereby BE our Hope.
So, what does that even mean? When I feel alone, shattered, afraid, hopeless — there is One that holds all the power that is lovingly present with me right here and right now. All of life will eventually fail me — financial, relational, medical, moral — every other thing in which I hope will crumble, but not Jesus. He’s already been crumbled on the cross, and now stands alongside the Father in power, and has send His Spirit as the presence of God in and with me now. I cannot be alone; I cannot be abandoned; I cannot be lost or overcome. My hope is in Him and in His hands, so even when I let it go in search for other hopes, he doesn’t let me go. He has overcome, and is, will, bring me with him. Starting here. Now. Forever.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.