The prophet Isaiah, writing some half a millennium before Christ, spoke of judgement for society’s injustices and sins. When it all happened and much of the nation was enslaved, he wrote of the hope of return, of God’s transforming power. It is some of the most beautiful and passionate poetry of the Bible – and the return happened. Isaiah’s readings accompany the Church through Advent. He paints a vivid picture of a time when all nations will be at peace, when there will be no more tears and pain, no weapons or division and justice will prevail. It can all seem removed and unreal. Something to dream of, but not a reality.
On the contrary, Isaiah the prophet was utterly realistic. He lived in a country that preferred the illusion of all being well to the reality of social sin. Reality was his stock in trade. It was in reality that he held the vision for what could be if the people co-operated with God, if a value-based nation, albeit occupied and dominated by others, could seek the common good, as we might call it. We too can see how our hope for the future may start to change the present. Hope, in the sense of purposeful expectation, motivates action. Hope inspires us to follow God where God already is: at work in the world.
That is why Christian waiting and looking forward is never passive. It empowers hope to take courage and aspire to change the world. It makes space for God to work in our lives, being open to the challenge of the Spirit.
That is the hope-filled invitation that Jesus Christ offers to each of us – and that is why we wait both by praying, and by living out this joyful call to walk with God who brings light out of darkness, and purpose out of waiting.