Hi everyone, Rob here. Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent; the four weeks before Christmas where we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. It means we remember that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14),” and also that Jesus is going to come again – “Look, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:7, 12)!” Advent is also marked by four key words: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. This was our verse on Sunday to remind us of hope: “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to you at his coming.” – 1 Peter 1:13
Hope is a choice. It is something you can set your mind to. The scripture implies that we can do this in any circumstance that we are facing. At the same time it’s not glib, facile advice. Peter knows of what he speaks; he was imprisoned more than once for his faith in Christ. His advice is to face reality with alert and sober minds. Persecution may come, hardship may come and suffering may come but there is hope! Peter sets our hope in two places. In 1 Peter 1:3-4 he says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” Because Jesus rose from the dead we have hope. Our hope is located in a past event that guarantees us a future inheritance. We will share in Christ’s resurrection and that hope lives in us right now. The second place that Peter locates our hope is in Christ’s return, as he says in 1:13. Jesus will reveal himself to us when he comes again and will bring us grace. How cool is that! So we can set our hope on Christ because of a past event – Christ’s resurrection, and a future event – his return.
Ours is not a vague, uncertain hope. It is a sure and certain hope. Jesus was definitely resurrected and he is definitely returning. The difficult part is remembering that hope when we feel trapped in circumstances that are desperate – when we’re in constant pain, our marriage is failing, we don’t know where the next meal is coming from and so on. In those circumstances hope seems unattainable. But in those circumstances hope is all you have. So, we need hope to be much more than something we can set our minds to. It also needs to be something that resides at a deep level within our hearts. This is why, in good times, we still need to make the confession that our only hope is in Christ and Christ alone. It is good for our hearts to confess that our true home is in the kingdom of God, that we die and rise with Christ and that our hope is not in the good things we have, but in the life and power of Jesus our King. If we can set our minds to hope and lodge hope deep in our hearts, then, when tough times come, hope will arise – the hope of Christ himself. I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1-3.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Below is a song called ‘City of Ruins’ that was sung by Bruce Springsteen as he opened the ‘Tribute to Heroes’ telethon that ran soon after the tragic events of 9/11. It reminds me that even in the face of unspeakable terror, hope is always there and it has enormous power.