Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt it's worth;
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
In the opening chapters of the Bible, God creates the heavens and the Earth. Upon doing so, he deems his creation, "very good." Everything is in harmony, both with its fellow creation and with its Creator. There was no pain, no violence, no hatred—there was no sin. The Hebrew word for this wholeness and harmony is shalom.
As the prized pinnacle of his creation, God charged mankind with stewarding the rest of creation according to a good and proper design and thus maintaining shalom. In our selfishness and pride, though, we thought ourselves to be better rulers than God. We didn't want to be his subjects; we wanted to be King. In our rebellion against our Creator, sin entered the world, and shalom was broken. The world now laid "in sin and error, pining."
God could have rightly and justly left us and the world in its broken state. Instead, though, he made a promise—a promise to restore what was lost. In Genesis 3:15, we read:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
God promises that eventually, there will be an "offspring" that will stomp the head of the serpent—the Enemy—and in doing so, would reverse the effects of sin on the world and usher in the paradise that God intended for his creation to enjoy. Here we have the first prophecy of the Messiah, the one who would deliver God's people from bondage. In the dark night that sin had brought about, God promised that dawn was coming. Or, as we sing in O Holy Night, "for yonder breaks a glorious morn!" And what does that morning break produce? "A thrill of hope."
This first week of Advent, we're focusing on the hope that we have in the coming of Jesus. From the moment God spoke the words in Genesis 3:15, there was hope. For thousands of years, God's people held onto the hope that the Messiah would come. We see their longing echoed in the song O Come O Come Emmanuel:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
And then, with the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, hope had finally come. The promise was fulfilled. Dawn had broken.
However, as we know all too well and are reminded of every day, sin and its effects have not been eradicated entirely from this world. Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection ensured that things were being set right once more, but there was still work to be done. In other words, Jesus first coming inaugurated his Kingdom, but it was not yet fulfilled. We are now living in between that inauguration and fulfillment. This is known commonly as living in the "already but not yet."
What does this mean for our hope? It means that while there is still more to hope for, it's not a wishful, optimistic "hope;" it's a certainty. While Israel had to hope for God to show up, we've already seen him do so, so we know he will again. While they had to wait to see what God's Messiah would be like, we've already seen him and know we can trust him. While they didn't know if the night would ever end, we've already seen dawn break the first time. Which means, we know it will again.
That's why Advent is a season to remember our hope. As we look back to Jesus' birth—his Incarnation—we're reminded that when God promises to do something, when he promises to show up, he follows through. When Israel cried "O Come, Emmanuel!" they did so as a plea for God to reveal his plan for their rescue. We can now declare the same thing, "O Come, Emmanuel!" with certainty that he will. Because, as those who have seen God's plan, we have been welcomed into his arms as he likewise tells us, "O Come, all who are weary."
One day, at the final Advent—the final "coming"—shalom will be restored. Jesus will return, and sin will be no more. Its effects will be a thing of the past. Violence, pain, suffering, doubt, betrayal, sickness and so much more will be wiped away, as will the last tear that they cause. That is our hope. And it's coming as certain as the dawn.
As you go throughout this week, take time to reflect on that promise. Find opportunities, especially perhaps in the difficult moments, to remind yourself that whatever might be broken and causing those difficulties will one day be set right. And if you have the privilege of watching the sunrise this week, remember the "new and glorious morn" that is on our horizon, as well.