The other morning I got to witness two different posts on Facebook. One post was full of fear, accusations, and anger. The other was simply a painting of the second coming of Jesus. The first one received comments both dismissive and volatile. The second received this comment: “We have this hope.”
I don’t know if you follow the calendar of Advent, but if you do, you’ll know that the theme for this week is Hope.
Hope. What an amazing thing to grasp. I learned this morning that two of the original words in Hebrew that we translate into ‘Hope’ are יָחַל (yachal) which is to wait for (i.e. waiting for the sun to get higher or the plants to grow), and קְוָה (qavah) which is related to the word ‘cord’, giving one a picture of mounting tension until the release (i.e. blowing up a balloon and waiting for it to burst, or tightening a piano string tighter and tighter until… release.)
I guess after I learned this, my mind went in two directions. First, I travel back to the Old Testament where the people of Israel, and honestly the whole world itself, were literally groaning in anticipation of the Messiah. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). Can you imagine? It’s almost like when Adam and Eve took that step of unbelief, they tripped the breaker and the power went out on the entire planet. Instantly, complete darkness. And with that came fear and uncertainty. And eventually, when people got used to the darkness, they began to lower their expectations, get used to the problems, and settle into what was left of their lives. But the lives they were living were nowhere near the lives they’d been designed to live, and somewhere deep inside each person, they knew that… and they couldn’t let that go. And so, with the darkness also came a promise. A promise that to those who lived in great darkness, one day a light would come. And with this, people had hope. Both a long, settled-in-and-waiting kind of hope - a yachal - as well as qavah, the hope of anticipation, the tension growing and growing and growing, literally groaning for the release until finally, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) and “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5). Praise God for that light… the hope fulfilled!
The other place my mind goes is to right here, and right now. Once again, we’re living in darkness. Not because there is no light, but because we choose instead to focus on the shadows. Isn’t that wild? We focus on the shadows when all the while we hold a promise that “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). We focus on the shadows when we’ve been given a mission with a promise, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to do all everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). We focus on the shadows when John the Revelator shared this beautiful vision that one day each of us will be able to see with our very own eyes: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:1-5).
Don’t let this be a time of shadows. Instead, let it be a time of hope. Don’t let the fear distract you. "Lift your head, for redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
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