Advent begins with hope. Hope is one of those words that Christians use a lot, but we seldom take time to consider the idea. It is, after all, a tricky thing. Hope believes in better things even when everything points to the contrary, and it does so without succumbing to naïve optimism. We might hope for more money and be bankrupt. We might hope for perfect health but find ourselves sick.
True, biblical hope is not like worldly hope. It is grounded in two realities.
First, God promised that things will be better someday. Second, this world cannot satisfy our desires. Or to say it another way, because this world cannot ultimately make me happy, I look forward to another world in which my greatest desires are finally realized. That’s hope.
Hope means that things aren’t like they should be. We do not hope for what we have. We hope for something yet to be true. Hope keeps us longing (Rom 8:20–25).
In his classic work Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis reflects on the theological virtue of hope. He reminds us that the purpose of hope is to look for things that ultimately satisfy—things of heaven, not of earth. God did not make this world to make all our dreams come true, especially in its fallen state. Hope anticipates what will come in heaven and makes our hearts yearn for the beauty, peace, holiness, joy, and satisfaction that will be ours. Lewis writes,
“I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”
Christmas hope is about the in-breaking of heaven, but it’s just a foretaste. It reminds us that this world is important, which is why God sent his Son to redeem us, but it also points to fulfillment when the Son will come again to take us home.
So this Christmas, in a time when it feels like so much is unraveling, I encourage you to lift your eyes to heaven. Jesus came once and he will come again.
This is our hope.
Dr. Brian Arnold serves as the fourth President of Phoenix Seminary. In this role he combines a love for the local church with a passion for serious, academic theology. He is convinced that seminaries are servants of the church, uniquely positioned to train men and women for mature, biblically-grounded ministry in a rapidly changing world.
Before joining the faculty of Phoenix Seminary in 2015, Dr. Arnold served as the Pastor of Smithland First Baptist Church in Kentucky. Dr. Arnold earned his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2013 and has since authored two books, Justification in the Second Century (de Gruyter; Baylor University Press) and Cyprian of Carthage: His Life and Impact (Christian Focus), and a number of journal articles. He has been married to Lauren since 2007 and has two children, Jameson and Natalie.