Advent 2 – Jesus Judges our Hopes

A2 - Last Judgement - Stefan Lochner c.1435

Romans 15:4-13       Luke 21:25-33


The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Advent is a time of reflection, of preparation, and of anticipation.

Our readings in the first three Sundays of Advent focus on a different theological virtue – do you know the three theological virtues?  Faith, Hope and Love.

Last week – we reflected on love – remember St Paul said, Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  [Rom 13:8,10]

This week’s readings address hope, and next week’s readings, faith.

What is hope?

Joseph Pieper writes wonderfully about the distinction between natural hope and supernatural hope – I mentioned this a bit last year, but I think it is worth repeating.

There is a natural hope that children and young people have as they begin their life.  If they are healthy, we say in English, they are “bright eyed and bushy tailed.”   They are full of energy and have enthusiasm, with so many possibilities before them.

It is not wrong for youth to have this kind of hope – it is wonderful to see in them.  But there is something in it that must mature or be transformed.  Otherwise they, in time, become dejected, even depressed.  They are disappointed because they weren’t able to attain some earthly goal.  Or, they are disappointed because the attainment of some worldly hope – money, fame or power – did not deliver the expected happiness.

But there is supernatural hope which is related to and springs from our faith and trust in God and God’s promises – this is the true and lasting hope that brings true happiness and will be attained by the gift of God.

Supernatural hope, the hope that is a gift of grace, has been described by Dante (in the Divine Comedy) as a “certain expectation of future glory.”  That is, to always have before our minds the possibilities that God is opening up for us:

  • hope that God could speak in a powerful way today, or very soon, to my heart;
  • hope, for reconciliation with a loved one;
  • hope, that I would be given the grace to bring comfort to one who suffers in my midst;
  • hope, that I might meet today or soon some new person who may become a great friend;
  • hope, that brings about an underlying joy despite my present circumstances of suffering
  • hope, that I and others around me might be spiritually fruitful, or in other words, for the spiritual health and growth of the Church
  • hope, that we haven’t seen anything yet – that an immeasurably greater glory awaits us in this life and in the life to come!

This is supernatural hope.  Do you have this hope?

What is it that takes away this supernatural hope?

We set up for ourselves, certain ideas of what we can expect from life.  And these ideas are formed by the society we keep – the conversations we have with our friends and our family and co-workers, by the TV and movies we watch, the radio we listen to, the books we read.

We set up for ourselves certain expectations – we may not even be consciously aware of what those hopes are.  When we feel down, often it is because the hopes we had have been dashed.  It is important to reflect on what our hopes have been – are they natural hopes or supernatural?

Advent is a time to do this reflection and to wait, in quiet expectation upon God – something that is not easy for us to do.  It is a season for the renewal, the rekindling, in our sadness, of true supernatural hope, the discovery of light in the darkness.  As our hopes are renewed and raised up, will recover our spiritedness.


St. Paul in the Epistle today reminds us of one of the most important ways God gives us to kindle supernatural hope in our souls:

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 

Reading the Bible is one way to rekindle our hope for the highest things.

St. Paul continues:

I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised [that is, to the Jews] to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles [that’s us] might glorify God for his mercy. 

At first reading of the Old Testament, we might think it is all about God’s Covenant with Israel only.  But St. Paul gives examples in the Epistle reading today from the four parts of the Old Testament:

from the Law (he quotes from Deuteronomy – Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people);

from the Historical writings (he quotes from 2nd Samuel 22(:50) – “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”)

from Wisdom literature (Psalm 117 (:1) – “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”)

and from the Prophets (from Isaiah – “The root of Jesse (the father of David) will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”).

St. Paul gives these examples very deliberately to remind us that the promises made there by God from the beginning to the end of the Bible are promises of salvation to every one of us and that they ultimately come through the descendant Jesus.  And just think of what has happened in history – through this small band of people, Israel, now ¼ of the world’s population is hoping in Jesus!

When we read the Bible regularly, our false hopes – (resting in earthly pleasure, seeking worldly glory instead of the true glory) are exposed for what they are—they come under judgement, there is a kind of purifying of our false hopes.

But also as we read Scripture, hopes founded upon the Eternal Word, who took flesh in Jesus Christ, are restored and strengthened – the hope of the perfecting of love, the hope of glory, the hope of eternal life.  And it is when we ground our lives upon these true and lasting hopes that we our path becomes more sure and certain, our spiritedness is released, we don’t waste time and we come to know lasting joy.

If you haven’t seen it, there is a basic discipline for reading Scripture in the Daily Bible Readings on the back of your service sheet, in the Newsletter and on our website.  It is one of a few disciplines commended by Church of England.  The readings are connected with the Church Year.  If you follow this lectionary you will read through most of the Old Testament once and the whole of the New Testament letters twice and the Gospels about four times each year. This immersion, day by day, month by month, year by year, in the Bible stories and prophesies and songs forms us.  Like water running over rocks that carves them in time, so will it shape our souls.  And it will enliven our appreciation of the readings of the Bible we hear on Sundays.

St. Paul concludes,

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.


What does today’s Gospel have to do with hope?

In the Gospel today Jesus speaks of his second coming, it is the apocalypse:

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity …people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

This is a description of disturbing end times, of the day of final judgement – before which none of us will stand on our own merits, but only by our trust in the righteousness of Christ. Jesus is our redemption and he will draw near us in that moment.  Our hope need not falter but will even be strengthened if these terrible things should happen in our lifetime – it is a moment we are to pray for, though we also shudder.  It is reassuring, that the worst of times will be the best of times.

But this passage is also meant to be a description of what happens in each one of our lives as our worldly hopes collapse around us – they must! – and we are opened up to see that our hopes must be founded on the eternal Word, on the life of God’s Kingdom, which is described in one of our hymns as “solid joys and lasting treasure”.

Jesus tells a parable,

Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, you see and know of your own selves that summer is now close at hand. 

Think of this – what happens just before summer – the flowers have all gone off the tree and they seem to have lost their glory, but the flowers are being replaced by the tiny buds of fruit that is just beginning.

So likewise you, when you see these things come to pass…  In your life – when your immature worldly hopes are dashed, the flowers falling away…know that the kingdom of God is close at hand.

Know that a far more substantial hope, grounded on Christ Himself, is coming about in you when you look up in your distress.   And it will bear fruit abundantly in time, with patience; spiritual fruit, including joy, wisdom, likeness to God.  True hope, “a certain expectation of glory”, will be fulfilled.

Jesus says at the end of this passage, this generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.  His word today is a truth that endures and is applicable to every generation including ours.

Now, let us allow Jesus to renew us this morning in supernatural hope as we feed on the Bread of eternal life, and drink from the Cup of everlasting salvation.

Amen +

Logo Ascension Optima skewed transparent 2 black


Worship Address: Adventist Church, Boomberglaan 6, Hilversum

Mailing Address:  Robijn 13, 3893 EN Zeewolde

Contact: (+31) 06 124 104 31

Donations:  NL75 INGB 0709 7677 49 (t.n.v. All Saints Anglican Church Amersfoort.)
(This All Saints account is designated for Ascension funds only.)

or you can use the Givt App:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2