Summary: our hope is something to rejoice in – to be excited about – to draw strength from because our road, no matter what potholes and mountains and struggles it may contain today, our road leads to the glory of God.
A Kingdom of Hope: Advent #1
Dec 3, 2006 Rom 5:1-5
“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons.)
Advent is the season of preparation for welcoming Jesus into our lives and into our world. Now, I worded that very carefully – not as “the season of preparing for Christmas”, but rather I jumped to the end point. At Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus came – the manger story, the shepherds and angels, the gift given and then passed on. But the point of that, the application of that story for our lives today, is that we would welcome Jesus into our lives and into our world. That we would be transformed by the living reality of God, with us. Every moment, every day, every decision and action and purpose, lived with the reality of a God who loves us so much that He would leave heaven and walk this earth with us. Christmas takes us to that place – of welcoming God into our lives, choosing to make Him the centre, and so the season of Advent is the season of preparing to welcome Jesus into our lives.
I began with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor killed just at the end of WWII for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler, because of his perspective. It begins with our need. With our recognition that we need God to be a part of our life, that we know we are “poor and imperfect”, that we need to be rescued, we need to be forgiven, we need to adopted by God and transformed from slaves to children of our King. One of Bonhoeffer’s descriptors is those “who look forward to something greater to come.” That line is all about hope.
A Kingdom of Hope:
This first week of Advent we focus our preparation on the theme of hope. We light the first candle, which leads us in reflecting on the hope that we have – that just as God came once in flesh, God still comes. Our role, as “Joy To The World” reminds us, is to “let every heart prepare Him room.”
Hope is one of those words that I always feel the need to re-define. In our ordinary usage, the word “hope” generally means “something I’m unsure about, but would really be nice.” For example, “I hope it won’t be -30C again tomorrow”, or “I hope my boss is in a better mood”, or “I hope I get lots of Christmas presents”. When we turn to Scripture, which we will in just a moment, the word “hope” carries a much different meaning.
In Scripture, “hope as expectation of good is closely linked with trust… this hope is not a consoling dream of the imagination… this hope is thus trust… this hopeful trust is always demanded. The righteous are always referred to what God will do, so that hope is not directed to anything specific, nor does it project its own view of the future, but it consists rather in general confidence in God’s protection and help.” (from TDNT, 2:522-523).
We see the difference: when Scripture uses the word “hope”, it is a confident assurance of something good in the future. It is trust – a trust based on the character of God and the promises of God, the “general confidence in God’s protection and help”.
We need to keep that definition in mind as we read Rom 5:1-5: “1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (NIV)
Unpacking the Passage:
This is classic Romans – jam packed with truth. It is full of beautiful words and concepts, like “justified”, “faith”, “peace”, “gained access”, “grace”, “rejoice”, “hope”, “perseverance”, “character”.
We don’t have the time this morning to unpack each of those, so instead I want to read the passage again, this time from a different translation. It unpacks a number of those concepts in the translation, and helps us to understand it a little better: