Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee:
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring:
By Thy own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone,
By Thy all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
Longing, expecting, hoping, asking. These are overarching themes during the season of Advent. (And as I look for words to share about the hope before and behind us, I land on some thoughts from Peter Leithart, a friend of my father… many of the following are his.)
Advent hymns, unsurprisingly, are full of longing, and the language of the prophets. Advent hymns are about Israel’s desperations and hope, and specifically hope that the Christ would come in order to keep God’s promise to restore His people, and through them to restore the nations.
Advent hymns look forward not just to heaven but the redemption of Israel and of the nations, the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.
Our hope is in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:19; Ephesians 1:12). Christ in us is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Christ’s resurrection is the target of Abrahamic faith, he who hoped against hope for resurrection, for new life to come from his dead body (Romans 4:18). Hoping in God’s promise, he didn’t consider his own impotence looked for the impossible.
Jesus is the one who reveals the “God of hope” (Romans 15:13). He is the incarnation of the God of hope, the God whom Jeremiah addresses as the “hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8; 17:13; 50:7). Only Jesus ensures whatever future we look forward to.
This Christ-centered hope gets misaligned if we separate hope for Christ’s coming from hope for His body, for ourselves. It’s true that the coming kingdom is Christ’s. But Christ is head of a body, and so the coming kingdom is also ours. The Christian hope is that the saints in Christ will reach their ultimate maturity as human beings, the fullness of our Adamic calling.
Advent isn’t supposed to soothe us. It doesn’t teach us to be stoic in the face of the irreparable damage of the world. It doesn’t teach us to be piously hopeless. It teaches us to have a hope that is irreversibly entwined with faith. Advent celebrates the Creator’s arrival to repair the damage of sin, judging and making new. Advent comforts because it promises final restoration, justice, and peace. Advent encourages us to persevere in trials and injustice because it demonstrates that God has pledged to make all things new. Advent unveils a God so determined to fulfill His purpose that He did not spare His own Son but freely delivered Him up for us all.
Isaiah 8:17 says, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” In the very next chapter, Isaiah 9, we read that “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” THIS is hope. This is the promise. The Savior came! And He is ruling at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again. We long for Him and we expect Him. Therefore, even as the Israelites looked forward with hope, so do we. Jesus, the God who became incarnate, IS our hope.