Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Hope


This is the first Sunday of Advent, a day on which we light the candle of Hope. As we light this candle we begin our journey forward toward lighting that final candle, Christ Candle. But even as we light that candle a month from now, it is only a provisional voice.

Jurgen Moltmann is known for his development of a Theology of Hope. As we consider today what hope entails, perhaps this word might provide some foundation for our conversation.

For a Christian theology of hope, this hope is not a modern phenomenon which must be interpreted religiously, but the subject and the motivation of theology itself. It is not grounded in optimism, but in faith. It is not a theology about hope, but a theology growing out of hope in God. These promises of God have been incarnated in the promissory history of Israel and in the promissory history of Jesus of Nazareth. The writings of the Old and New Testament comprise the history book of God's promises. The Bible tells the story of God's hope which will be fulfilled in the whole world. It does not relate its story in the manner of a teller of fairytales -- "once upon a time . . . " -- or of a modern historian who wants to know how it "really was then" (Ranke). It recounts the past in such a way that through it a new future and freedom for the hearers are inaugurated. It reveals the future in the past and makes God's hope present by means of the remembrance of his historical association with Israel, the covenant, and with Jesus Christ, the incarnation. It recounts the story of the anticipations of God's future in this past a matter of real concern again. (Jurgen Moltmann, The Experiment Hope, Fortress Press, 1975, p. 45).


To walk in hope, as a Christian, is not simply to be optimistic. Instead, it is to live with a sense of purpose, knowing that we walk in the presence of the living God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. With that sense of purpose, we light the first candle of Advent.

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