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. Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
- Charles Wesley, 1744
There was a moment during the early days of the pandemic when people were looking to me as a pastor, to give them good news of the days ahead. Several friends excitedly asked about an in-person gathering for Easter, a mere month after the world shut down, as a beacon of hope on the horizon. And each time, with great care and grief, I had to dash their hopes. It was incumbent upon me to tell the truth. It was incumbent upon me to not give false hope. Each of those conversations that began with enthusiasm ended in disappointment. As the days of the lockdown and virtual church persisted, there were many of us asking the question, “When will this end?”
In a very real sense, I’m grateful for the Covid pandemic. I’m grateful because we found ourselves in a situation that we could not readily fix with the resources we commonly use to solve our problems. As the days waned on there was a steady invitation from Jesus to find our hope and comfort in His person and work. But that didn’t seem to be enough, did it? Sure, we heard messages that pointed us that way, but what we really wanted was an end to our isolation. We wanted Jesus, sure, but many of us wanted hope that the trials we were facing had an expiration date.
Have you ever mistakenly drunk spoiled milk? (My friends in Mississippi call it “rurn’t” milk.) There is a jolting reality when instead of sweet and crisp, you’re met with sour and bitter. And if you’re like me, you never stopped to check the expiration date until it was too late.
Advent affords us the opportunity to know with sure and steady confidence that there is an expiration date on suffering. There is an expiration date on hardship. There is an expiration date on disappointment.
Beholding Mary’s baby in His birth and anticipating His return is the light breaking into the darkness of this world. Behold and Hail King Jesus!
Hope is borrowing the Joy of tomorrow today. In this Advent season, the invitation is to hope in Jesus Christ. Not merely as a mental exercise—no—but as a holistic endeavor to worship and experience Christ’s real presence with us through hope. Our world is dark. Our situations may feel hopeless. But in Christ Jesus, all of our hardships have an expiration date.
—Pastor Jason Cook