Our relationship with hope changes as we grow older.
When I was a child, the anticipation of the Christmas season filled me with excitement. My heart would dance in joyful wonder in the presence of trees and lights, my tastebuds would water in expectations of cookies and cider, and my mind would swirl with the possibilities of presents and parties. I never worried that these expectations would fail to come to pass.
The hope of Christmas was tangible and good.
By the time we reach adulthood, our experiences of disappointment have stacked into a giant wall. Times we have been left waiting, dreams that never became reality, results that weren't what we wanted, and relationships that have fallen apart, all these come together to form a barricade around our desires. It begins to feel safer to stay inside than to break through. We know all too well how horrible it feels if our expectations aren't met.
Sometimes hope feels less like goodness and more like danger. In a wide open space filled with possibilities, we know that one option, sometimes the most likely option, is that we will be hurt.
Advent is a season of longing for Christ. We travel back in time to wait alongside those who lived before Christ came, and we sit in the present time to wait with the world for Christ who is still coming. We notice the brokenness of this world and the jagged edges of ourselves, and allow ourselves to anticipate the Savior who is coming to make us whole.
At Advent, we enter into a season of hope. At least, we try to.
Because, honestly, it feels like too much to believe sometimes, doesn't it? That God came to earth as a baby? And that He will come again to make all things right? Because He is actually real and He actually loves us?
What if we hope, only to have our expectations dashed once again, like they always are?
It feels safer to sit in the darkness, behind our wall, than to break through and believe in the possibility of the light.
I wonder if part of the waiting of Advent is to hope that we don't have to be the ones to break through. Because at Christmas, God showed us that He is the type of God who breaks through on our behalf. That His love can push through our walls, pull us out from hiding, and hold our hands as we walk in His light towards something new.
Maybe at Advent, God is showing us that in the vulnerable space of hope, we don't have to wait alone.
The risk of hope feels tangible to me this Advent. Come January, I don't have a job. Like a crazy person, I left my current position without a plan for what's next. (You can hear more about that in the message at the top of this page.) In an amazing way, God made Himself tangibly present in that decision, and yet I find it difficult to continue to trust Him here, in the waiting space.
As I've talked with God about what is next, the scariest things to pray about haven't been my fears. The most difficult truths to admit to God are my desires. What if I build up these hopes and expectations only to have them dashed?
Hope pushes us to confront what we believe about God's character. Do we believe that He is good, regardless of our circumstances? Do we believe that He is at work, even when the world is such a mess? Do we believe He cares about our desires?
In Mark 10, when Jesus comes across the blind man Bartimaeus, he doesn't simply heal him on the spot. He starts with a question,
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” - Mark 10:51
Do we have the courage to answer Jesus question, "What do you want me to do for you?" To answer that question for ourselves and for the world?
Do we have the courage to hope?
Just yesterday, when I was doubting God's presence in this waiting space, when hope was feeling too risky, God broke through and pulled me out from behind the wall. In an amazing way, He reminded me that He is here and He sees me. I am not alone.
The beauty of Advent hope is that though we wait in longing for the Christ who is still coming, we also worship the Christ who has already come. Having eyes to see Christ at work in our present can give us the courage to name our desire for Christ to work in our futures.
This Advent, let's dare to hope.