Hope in His Coming
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“We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.” – Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386 AD)
Have you ever read the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha is a group of historical books that tells the “intertestamental” tale, that is, the stories of Israel that take place between Malachi and Matthew. One of the wildest features of the Apocrypha, at least the parts I have read, is the absence of God’s voice. A strong feature of Israelite literature is dialogue. Stories are told in quotes, so to speak. Yet, in these apocryphal texts, there is a strange absence of God’s voice in quotes. A whole lot of history but a tragic lack of God’s voice. A whole lot of tribulation but a great lack of Divine intervention.
Can you imagine living in these 400 years of history with God’s loud silence ringing in your ears as your people and land undergo horrible hardship? What could one cling to in a time like this?
Hope is the great tradition of the Israelite people. For thousands of years God’s people in Israel clung to stubborn hope that YHWH would be faithful to His promises to be with them and to deliver them, no matter the trial that faced them.
Now imagine you’re a lowly shepherd watching your sheep on a quiet night. Imagine you’re a vulnerable teenage girl who just received word of an impossible pregnancy. Imagine you are this girl’s to-be husband struggling to figure out how to deal with this righteously.
Now imagine the voice of God finally, after four centuries, speaks into this silent night one word:
The same Word by which God created the world was the Word by which Israel’s hope was answered! After long suffering, “God with us” broke the silence. And the beauty of it all is that the answer to Israel’s hope would turn out to be the hope of the entire world…
I do not know much about our friend Cyril who is quoted above. He existed at a time of great theological turmoil and controversy. He was apparently exiled from Jerusalem a couple times and welcome back a couple times. Even in his time of great turmoil, Cyril was noted for his focus on God’s love and forgiveness, which was apparently unusual for his time. And, as the above quote reveals, Cyril was a man of great hope in the second coming of Christ. Cyril continues:
“We look then beyond the first coming and await the second… Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.”
I love the way Cyril points us this Advent season to place our hope in Christ’s return. As we celebrate His first coming and His faithful response to centuries of hope amid chaos, I pray we lean back on hope again. Through the chaos of 2020, of pandemics, elections, and civil unrest, there is only one hope we have, and it remains in “Immanuel,” God with us in Christ, the God who lived, died, rose from the grave, ascended, and stands ready to return to this world, to renew it in the resurrection and renewal of all things. That, church, is a hope worth having.
- In what things do I place hope? Are there things I hope for more than Christ’s second coming?
- Do I live my life with the stubborn hope in Christ? What do I do when things go bad or God seems silent?
- What do I need hope for today? What quality of Christ’s character and promises can be an anchor of hope in this Advent season?
- Read: Matthew 1:18-25 and Titus 2:11-14