Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent – the time we look forward with hope to what we have in Christ. We remember again how he came into this world as a seemingly insignificant little child, there in Bethlehem. How does that give us hope? Hope indicates an expectation of change, a clear trust that something good is surely about to happen. How will the birth of this child give us hope?
Hope is a significant aspect of the Christian faith. The hope is indeed in things to happen and to change, but it is expressed as the hope in a person, in God himself. By putting hope in a person, we expect that person to bring about the change we hope for. Matthew, one of the gospel writers, connects these words of Isaiah to Jesus:
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”
This seemingly insignificant baby Jesus grows into a seemingly insignificant man. He came to bring justice, but ‘he will not quarrel or cry out’ and ‘no one will hear his voice in the streets’. How is this supposed to work then? Even in Jesus’ own time, people doubted his approach of loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. Jesus did not want to be crowned as King, but stayed away from a position of power and fame. Instead he talked about the Kingdom of God spreading quietly like mustard. And gave up his life out of love.
It takes trust and faith to believe this is the way that leads to justice and change. That Jesus himself is the way. And that the way to change and peace is to follow his ways. But if we do not put hope in his name, all we have left is fear. The fear that we are left to ourselves. The fear that makes us violently fight for justice and peace. Out of fear we defend ourselves against others. Hope makes vulnerable – but fear makes victims.
So I continue to hope in this one name of Jesus, who let love win and drove out all fear. Because where there is love, there is no fear. Only hope.