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What Is Your Advent Hope?

December 6, 2017 by

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The world in which we live is filled with hopelessness: poverty, violence, war, natural disasters, sex scandals, racism, discrimination, addiction… an endless list of depressing realities. Many people of faith – and many of no faith – are speaking out against these evils.

But what do we hope for? Pointing out the wrong is a necessary step to wholeness, but if we get stuck there, we act more hypocritical than hopeful. Denouncing sinners will not lead them to better ways. When sin is so evident, when moral bankruptcy is broadcasted in almost every headline, shouldn’t the church offer hope? Where is the church that will open its doors and give a gospel message to all? Yes, all; that includes the victims and the perpetrators, the apathetic and the crusaders, the left and the right, the rich and the poor. All need hope, all need purpose, and all need the good news.

The good news is Advent: the birth, the return, and the rebirth of Christ our Savior. This is the reason for our hope; his message is the good news.

The story of Christ’s birth is wonderful. There is the powerful message of the angels, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy to all people.” There is the heartrending account of Jesus’ suffering and death for us, and the awesome victory of his resurrection. These are the heart of the Gospel story. But Luke 15 gives us the essence of Advent in the form of three parables from the wisest and most understanding heart of all.

The setting is a group of tax collectors and sinners sitting around listening to Jesus, fellowshipping and eating with Jesus! As hard as it might be to imagine, along with the run-of-the-mill sinners, I believe the crowd favored by Jesus today would include those who might be unpopular: certain politicians, public servants of the law, disgraced broadcasters, and Hollywood celebrities. The Pharisees and teachers (that would be all of us who know better), grumbled about the audience, but Jesus simply sized up the moment and shared three stories, all about lost things: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:4–7)

As the shepherd looks, he is hopeful – and that hope is joy in the finding. Remarkably, the joy is greatest in heaven.

Jesus’ next story about a lost coin has the same message and ends with, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

When sin is so evident – is broadcast in almost every headline – shouldn’t the church offer hope? 

The final parable is the most inspired with meaning and hope. A son leaves home with his inheritance, going against his father’s wishes by squandering all he has and ending up a swineherd. When he finally comes to his senses, he returns home with great trepidation, acknowledging his sin, and saying that he is no longer worthy to be called a son. His father’s reaction is unconditional love and forgiveness:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15: 20–24)

They began to celebrate! What are we waiting for?

The story goes on to tell that the older brother felt miffed by the celebration. He had never done any wrong, had always been responsible and reliable. That is good – but it was not cause for celebration.

The return of the lost, the restoration of wrong, hope given to the hopeless, and forgiveness: this is the Advent of a new life, and is worthy of celebration. This is the hope and truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

J. Heinrich Arnold is a father of seven and a grandfather of three, as well as a pastor, teacher, and musician. He lives at Woodcrest, a Bruderhof in Rifton, New York. Follow him on Twitter: @JHeinrichArnold.


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  • My Advent hope is '' peace among people''. We all need to work for it. Peace starts by smiling to each other and share everything with our neighbors. There is no peace on earth today and because we could not learn that we belong each other and live in brotherhood as you brothers and sisters do at Bruderhofs. But I have hope for peace. Each new born baby shows us that God has hope for PEACE for all of us. Thank you JHA.