ADVENT WEEK I: Prophets, Hope & Expectation


[U]ntil the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words, -- “Wait and hope.” – Alexandre Dumas

On the first dark day of human history, God gave humanity a gift. On that infamous day, before rendering judgment on Adam and Eve for their disobedience, God spoke the first recorded prophecy to the serpent: “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15). On that day, before casting them from the garden, God gave Adam and Eve hope, hope that the severing of the relationship between humanity and God and humanity’s interpersonal relationships would not always be so, hope that there would be an undoing of their disobedience.

God persisted in His pursuit through His prophets, calling those in opposition to Him to right relationship and continuing to foretell the coming One that would bruise the serpent’s head.  Often, their words were not received well, the fate of Abel repeating through time. From Genesis through Malachi, God spoke until He grew silent.

Perhaps He ceased to speak because He allowed the din of humanity’s disobedience to have its work against His voice. Perhaps He restrained His voice to allow hope to take deep roots in the soil of 400 quiet years, for “hope that is seen is not hope.”  Perhaps He, the Great Economist, had said all the necessary words to convey His restorative intent: that God Himself would oppose the inertia of silence, moving His redemptive plan forward by walking the earth again, entering it in the coolness of a time that had forgotten His voice, becoming Emmanuel – God With Us.

This name of Jesus illuminates the nature of hope.  The world’s “thousand points of darkness” oftentimes seem too great an evil to be overcome.  The prophets felt this reality: “tortured,… [experiencing] mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” Even Christ could not escape, who solidified His fellowship with the prophets at the “bruising” of His heel, His subjection to the cross’ abuse.  The despair that He felt in the garden, His cry to the Father that “this cup pass from me,” is the familiar cry of the human experience. As C. S. Lewis writes in Till We Have Faces, “There must, whether the gods see it or not, be something great in the mortal soul.  For suffering, it seems, is infinite, and our capacity without limit.”

Herein lies hope; that God would pursue humanity to the furthest extent, leaving no stone unturned, no event un-experienced, no season unlived, in order to reconcile the relationship we could not change.  Those that would enter into the expectancy of The Prophets must do so by hoping for the presence of God in every circumstance.  Hope in future restoration is only half of our great hope.  We must be diligent to remember Emmanuel means God With Us, never leaving nor forsaking, hidden behind every joy and every sorrow, Who pursued humanity from eternity and back, through a point in time marked on either end by life, His birth and resurrection.