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15 December 2017

Hope deferred, but sure and certain

Hope deferred, but sure and certain

Danny Webster is advocacy and media manager for the Evangelical Alliance.

As a cricket fan, December can be a difficult month. Every four years, when the England team are down under playing Australia in the Ashes, the games start in the early hours of the morning. Each morning I wake up with a tantalising moment of hope wondering if the England batsmen have scored at a proliferate rate, or the bowlers have wreaked havoc with the ball. Hope is raised by each partial good performance, and then hope drifts away as reality sets in and the game reverts to the norm - Australia building to a win.  

At Christmas we think a lot about hope. The hope of the world who came as a baby in the humblest of settings, grew up in the backwater of Nazareth, scorned by the authorities and went on to die a traitor’s death. It’s the greatest underdog story of all 

ThBrexit deal hangs on the hope-laden words, ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. It gives all sides something to hope for - for the Brexiteers, the hope that freedom from the EU is not far away; for the remainers, the hope that our exit might still not happen.  

This week, the tragedy at Grenfell Tower was remembered at a national memorial service  a desperate cry for justice, the hope that things will be put right. The disaster showed the painful, heart-breaking consequences of the broken world in which we live. Many things went so wrong and answers are desperately needed. Why was this able to happen? How do we make sure it doesn't happen again? 

The Ashes might be interesting, and occasionally enjoyable, but it is ultimately not important. Brexit is significant but the horror of Grenfell Tower is of yet greater importance because of the lives lost, and the potential for similar tragedies to occur again.  

Hope cries out in the wilderness: things do not have to be this way.  

Proverbs 13:12 says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.” 

Why do we think about hope at Christmas? Because Jesus came to be with us - we call him Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us in our pain, he joined with our suffering. Mary in her Magnificat in Luke 1 declares that: “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” 

During the Advent we reflect on waiting for Jesus, on the silence that extended for hundreds of years between the last prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus’ birth. But that’s not the only coming of Jesus we think about. While we look back at that wait, we look forward as we currently wait. We look beyond Christmas to Easter, to the death and resurrection of our saviour, and beyond that to the time when Jesus will come a second time.  

We live in hope. A sure and certain hope. 

Hebrews 9:27-28 says: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” 

In these days before Christmas we remember both periods of waiting, waiting for Emmanuel, the God who is with us, but we also expectantly hope for the day when He comes again and the wrongs will be put right. When suffering will cease and mourning will be no more. When our longing for justice and righteousness will be fulfilled. 

How can you live in the light of the hope we know and hold onto in the days and weeks ahead? How can you resist the despair that can frequently cloud our lives? How can you help others find hope even if they are facing the darkest, most hopeless of days?