Christmas time can be filled with all kinds of desires. “I hope that I get a new iPhone this Christmas!” “I hope my parents get me a car to take back to college.” “I hope that my friends can get together.” “I hope that we can celebrate New Years in sunny Southern California.”
Lately I’ve been thinking about comments like these. Do these really represent “hopes” or are they more wishful thinking or expression of our wants and desires? And what is the difference? I went to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for some help and there I discovered there is something interesting about this word “hope.” It seems that the word is used in two different ways. In more modern usage it is used to convey “wanting or expecting something I desire to happen.” There is another usage however, identified as archaic that conveys a deeper sense of “trust.” This is a hope that involves not simply a wish or desire, but a confidence and trust that it might come to pass and really happen.
What difference does it make? Often I hear people use scripture references with the “hope” interpreted and used in such a way as to imply that if we just hold on, wait a bit, work hard, and just believe all that we desire and want to be will happen. Our prayers will be answered as God gives us what we wanted, what we hoped for, whether a job, a spouse, an “A” in a class, a surprising check in the mail, a better life, or whatever.
Biblical and Christian hope however, is not really about God giving me what I want and meeting my desires, it is focused instead on God bringing all things to restoration and completion. Christian hope focuses on a day when all things are set right. 1 Peter 1:13 puts it like this: “Set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.” This hope is a hope that looks to the day of the full redemption of the world described in Revelation 21 – a day when God lives among his people, where every tear is wiped away, where there is no mourning or crying or pain or death.
When Paul says, three things remain, “Faith, hope, and love” (1 Corinthians 13), he is points us to a faith in what Jesus Christ has done in making us the children of God, to a hope that this will all come to completion in Christ, and a love that becomes the manner in which we live now and forever. Our hopes then are not wishes for things to make our life better here, but a focus on the redemptive purposes of God for our future. While we wait for this completion, let faith in Jesus Christ and love for all people be the expression of our hope.