Advent Week 1-Hope: The Best is Yet to Come
Written by Eric Weiner
A Pessimistic Perspective Un-prevailing
Hi! My name is Eric, and I’m a recovering pessimist. I grew up believing that nothing is ever as good as it seems. If something sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Or, consider Charlie Brown, of Peanuts fame, who says, “I've developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time.” Such is the outlook of a pessimistic person.
One problem with pessimism is how pessimists approach the future. Their foresight doesn’t flow from a heart that delights in God’s precepts, but from a heart that is all too comfortable with the adage of Murphy’s law - “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” If you take the pessimistic mind to its logical conclusion, you will find a way of thinking that rightly laments the evils of this world, but that believes such evils will eventually prevail.
If the optimist believes that everything is awesome (which it’s not...right?), then the pessimist believes that nothing is awesome (which I know is not true). In fact, the mantra of this former pessimist was: “Expect the worst, hope for the best,” which was really a defense mechanism. It’s the safest way to avoid the inevitable letdown. Even this view of hope is a skeptical, low-percentage shot-in-the-dark. But biblical hope doesn’t think this way. It’s as different as day is from night.
And this is why I love Advent so much! The arrival of Jesus isn’t just the best of all possibilities. It’s a healthy dose of what’s really real. Isaiah puts it like this - “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
I love that! The dawning of Jesus in my life didn’t just rattle my former predispositions. It gave me new perspective. A hope more secure than Ron Swanson’s gold. A hope more certain than Newton’s law of gravity. A hope that awakens you to a future more real than life itself.
A Surprisingly Bright Future
The gospel of Luke is unique in that it includes the accounts of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus. No other gospel does this. John is an important figure in every gospel for sure, but in Luke we get insight, not just in what John will do, but in who he will be and what that will mean.
Luke chapter 1 ends with this prophetic song sung by an expectant father. Babies are mysteries to us. We have no idea who they will become. But not so with Zechariah’s son. Read the words of this song sung by John’s father, filled with the Holy Spirit:
76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
John is literally a harbinger. I don’t know why, but I love that word. Harbinger.
Somewhere around the twelfth century the term harbinger came to be understood as a term referring to a person who would run ahead of his army to find shelter or lodging. His arrival and request would allow those providing lodgings to make the necessary preparations as they waited. The harbinger was a signal, a guarantee if you will, of who was to come.
And this harbinger, John, comes calling us to make ready our hearts for the “rising sun…come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness.” How’s that for a description of the coming King?
For us, a light dawned two millennia ago in Jesus, and we still stand in the radiance of his splendor. Jesus, our Emmanuel. To this day, we wait in anticipation for his return. Each day is one day closer. And one day even those words will be made obsolete. One day the waiting will end.
So hear this from a former pessimist: Our future is incredibly bright. In fact, our best days are ahead of us.
When we embrace this mindset, what we are doing is following the example of those wise saints who came before us who were commended for their faith. They had “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
A hope that longs for the things unseen, not because they’re unreal, but because we’re becoming more aware that nothing else is as real. The best is yet to come!
So, this Advent season, let us sing from this place of hope-filled certainty:
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.”