By Carin Tillman
We are not perfectly free until we live in pure hope. For when our hope is pure, it no longer trusts exclusively in human and visible means, nor rests in any visible end. He who hopes in God trusts God, Whom he never sees, to bring him to the possession of things that are beyond imagination. Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, p. 14.
I’m not going to lie to you, Advent is hard for me. It’s a season of forced humility and wrestling. My tendency in this season is to jump directly to the joy of Christ Incarnate, the hope realized, but I am forced to wait two weeks before I dive into the joy of Christ’s birth. Hope is a hard subject. Naturally, it’s related to trust, which all of us would admit is the easiest part of our relationship with God… oh, wait… it’s one of the hardest. The particular life season that I am in (impending graduation, less then a month from marrying my dream man, and starting a new career) teases me to jump straight to the joy of these things realized, but that’s a cop-out. I am humiliated by the invitation to hope. I look to the things I hope my God will provide, while I wait in trust that they will come. Mostly, I am humbled by the season: that the small things that I hope for so deeply in my life are not the things I am intended to hope in. And so, through this season, I join the entire history of God’s people and their cry for a Messiah. For one week, I deeply engage the yearning for a Savior that is realized, only up to this week in the church calendar, as an infant in His mother’s womb.
The long-time journey of hope for Messiah, (that hope of salvation from the Fall of Man and the hope of reunification with God) comes to a cacophonous realization in the scandalous pregnancy of an Ancient Near Eastern woman.
Who can imagine the emotions attempting to reconcile within this young woman that holds the Secret of the Ages in her womb and the promise of God in her heart, while the world blasts her with condemnation from its misunderstanding? But the God who provides blesses her with wonder. What little hope Mary was able to harness within explodes in her song of praise to God, the Magnificat. When Mary’s hope is affirmed by Elizabeth, the hope of the Israelites throughout the ages erupts out of her mouth in a song. Mary sings hope as the Savior is formed in her belly—hope ecstatic, but the fullness of joy not yet realized through His birth.
We sit in this paradigm this week as we join the hope of God’s people present from the beginning of time, but wait a few weeks until we are able to proclaim in utter joy, “A Savior is born!” In the same way, we allow this season to remind us that we are in a church age when we have realized the hope of a resurrected Lord, but we wait in the hope of His promise to return.
We hope in Him, the promise that is worth pure hope and trust.
And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION
TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.
(Luke 1: 46-56)