She sounds light as a feather, but many strong men cannot carry her far. She seems cruel to the hurried but is abundantly generous with those who wait. Powerful men run and hide without her, while the weak who take her hand have found courage even in death.

Hope.

Hope, like faith, bridges the gap between the now and not yet. And like faith, hope’s true worth resides not in itself, but in its object. We don’t hope in hope, we hope in something or someone who will (or won’t) bring good to pass.

We can’t live without hope, especially when things are hard. But where we set our hope will either crush us or carry us.

I’ve heard so many stories of losing hope:

• Singles frustrated that God hasn’t answered their desire to get married.
• Wives whose husbands keep returning to porn even after years of therapy and recovery groups.
• Christians choosing gay relationships because the alternative looks bleak.
• Couples who haven’t been able to get pregnant.
• The faithful running out of prayers as friends or family aren’t healed but only decline.

What about you? Where in your life are you running out of hope?

So many of us start out hopeful, but after too long, we become like one driving a long desert road scanning the horizon for a place to “fill up” again before we run out of fuel.

Wherever we’re low on hope, this Advent, we can look to the body of Mary. Within her pregnant frame, Hope has come.

But wait. Remember, my friends…

The certain hope she carried brought eyes of scorn and whispers of “scandal”. It disrupted not just nine months, but her entire life. It set her on a course she did not plan. It brought joy, yes, but also pain.

I think many times we grow low on hope because we’re looking for God to do our bidding our way in our timing.

If Mary had set her hope on having a “normal life,” enjoying what others around her were enjoying, if she had set her hope on watching her son grow up to be a respected man living out a long successful life, her hopes would have been dashed.

Maybe those hopes had been hers. Maybe that’s why another prophet told her, “And a sword will pierce your own heart, too” (Luke 2:35).

Advent pushes us past serene nativity scenes to soberly examine: Where have you set your hope?

When I pause to look within myself, I find hopes gripping at all manner of things here and now—plans with friends, my finances, what others think of me, my kids, even my prayers.

Advent invites us to peel our hope from every horizon save one, every summit but one. Advent points to the disruptive child growing in Mary’s body and invites us once again to set our hope on Him alone—a hope that may in fact pierce our own soul like it did Mary’s (and so many of the faithful who have gone before us), but a hope that in the end will not disappoint.

Lord Jesus, I admit I want to set all my hope on that which requires little of me, costs me little, leads me to suffer only a little. Forgive me, Lord, for setting my hopes on small things. Grant that I may set my hope on You and follow wherever You lead. I am Your servant. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Question: Where are you in need of hoping on something more solid than the here and now?

With hope,
Josh

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2 Comments on "A Sober (and Big!) Hope"

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Megan Johnson
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I find myself with a variety of emotions and responses to this writing. Mary has hope one because she literally had an angel of the Lord speak to her and tell her that all that is about to happen to her is within God’s divine will and secondly she bears witness to it in the physical changes that are taking place within her body as the days and months tick by. For those of us who do live within time and space, which is all of us humans, struggling to have that same kind of hope for healing, for a… Read more »
betsy
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As someone who was single until the age of 38, I clearly remember feeling some of Megan’s emotions. You are not alone with those thoughts. But, even when you can’t feel it, God is faithful.

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