O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Music by Mary Palumbo

Advent Devotional
Authored by Scott Tunseth

What Is Hope?

That made me wonder if hope is always forward-looking, and faith is mostly about what is yet to come. Advent certainly does have this sense about it. Commonly, in this season we hear texts about the coming Messiah—Emmanuel (God is with us) as Matthew’s Gospel puts it (1:23). Traditional advent texts also include John the Baptist’s announcement of one who is coming (Mark 1:2-8) and apocalyptic passages announcing that Jesus will come again in the future (Mark 13:24-27; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The hymn for this day is prayerful plea, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” 

As I sat down to write a devotion for this week’s theme of “Making Room for Hope,” I wondered: What is hope? Is it a feeling? Is it an emotion? Is it a state of mind? Is it a defense mechanism to hold despair at arm’s length? Is it another word for faith? As the writer of Hebrews puts it: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

It’s easy to make hope and faith about the future, because the present can be so filled with pessimism and pain. This long and arduous 2020 has not been easy. Making room for hope is challenging. And it would be too difficult if we had to be the ones “making the room.” Then hope would be about us manufacturing feelings, or pumping up our emotions, or getting our minds straight. There’s no good news in that. 

Yes, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, including a better future. But faith is also the promise of things heard and seen and experienced today, this day, in the present. Emmanuel has come; Jesus is with us; God’s Spirit makes room for hope in our lives. We may not always feel hopeful, but that does nothing to upend God’s promises. We may not easily discern the future, but that does nothing to change God’s loving embrace of you this day. 

May this promise sustain you in this season of waiting. May this promise open the door to hope in your life.