Advent Week One: Waiting With Hope, Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. — Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV
In the fraught, painful conditions of this year, the question of hope is both urgent and unanswered for many. Our daily reality is replete with despair, loss, and injustice. This Advent season, we wait with sensitivity to a world hurting, hollow, and hungry for hope. And as we orient ourselves toward the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we discover that he arrived into a world not unlike our own—and indeed, for our world today.
Thousands of years prior to Jesus' arrival, the Biblical authors, prophets, and songwriters repeatedly articulated their waiting for a Messiah with the Hebrew word Yakhal , or hope. This waiting persisted beyond the events of Jesus’ birth, and continues into our own groaning world. All of creation and history waits. We have not reached the end; our entire lives are eclipsed with waiting. As the Psalmist describes, in Psalm130:5, we wait with our whole beings; we wait with hope.
Hope is typically understood as optimism, anticipation, or wishful thinking about circumstantial outcomes. But the hope prophesied of in Isaiah has little to do with these; it is hope in a person. Missionary E. Stanley Jones writes, "The early Christians did not say, in dismay, 'Look what the world has come to,' but, in delight, 'Look what has come to the world!'"
This season, we may readily look outside and lament our reality—and we are right to. To hope amid despair is not to gloss over pain, escape reality, or soothe ourselves. To hope is to allow ourselves to observe and feel the fullness of our experiences—and then, fix our attention to the person and reign of Jesus. In fact, hope is only relevant in the midst of despair. Theologian G.K. Chesterton writes, "As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength."
Hope is powerful. It is a matter of anticipation and action. It is both on the horizon and at hand. Transcending circumstances, it is embodied in the person and reign of Jesus Christ. When we live in light of this truth, hope changes our lives. It alters how we create, how we grieve , how we resile, and how we love—all, with hope. It is not a state of mind, but a determined, routine expression of trust in the face of despair. In a climate of cynicism and callousness, we need to be intentional, unrelenting—even methodical—in our pursuit of hope.
Staggering towards the end of an exhausting year, we might enter Advent with hopelessness. But like the countless characters that came before us, may we move ourselves into a posture of intentional waiting. And may the God of hope fill us, so we may overflow with hope(Romans 15:13). Amen.
- How have you articulated your waiting for Jesus? Whether in art, song, or conversation, Advent is a time to express our deep longings for Jesus and His Kingdom.
- In an era of despair, the very practice of Advent is a discipline of hope. In Romans 15, the Apostle Paul describes how the scriptures feed our hope. Some behaviors feed our sense of hope, while others feed a sense of despair. How are you building a discipline of hope?
Words: Daniel Sunkari
Images: Patrick Hendry