Read Hebrews 9:24-28
24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)
This first week of Advent’s focus is Hope. Earlier in the letter to the Hebrews, Paul would write, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 6:19-20, NIV)
Christ is our hope, but we also have a promise as our hope and that promise is that Christ will return a second time. When Christ returns this second time, his reason will be completely different. This is what Paul talks about in verse 28. It is no longer to sacrifice or to bear our sin, but usher in a new earth and a new heaven for those who are waiting and have put their trust in him.
In this letter, Paul has a theme that what has happened on earth through Christ is just a pale comparison of what is to happen when he returns. While Christ’s sacrifice was perfect, there is still much imperfection in the world. When Christ returns, there will be total perfection.
The main point we think about this week in Advent is that without Christmas, there can be no Easter and without Easter, there can be no defeat of sin and without defeat of sin once and for all, there can be no new life, no resurrection of the dead because we are still dead in our sins. But Christ entered the very presence of God to atone for this sin. And that very act should give us hope in this life. Hope that something better is coming. Even if we are living on the top of the world, something better is coming. If life is bad and filled with troubles, something better is coming.
This hope should allow us to surrender ourselves completely to God and in that surrender, we surrender our pain and our desires so that all is left is God’s desires for us. It is not good enough to believe there is a God. James addresses that in his letter where he writes in 2:19, “You believe that God is one. Good for you! Even the demons believe that— and shudder.” It is putting our trust in Christ which gives up hope and peace. It doesn’t take away the pains of this world, but it gives us the strength to endure the pains and more importantly, it changes our focus on what is good and worthy in this world. Hope does all this.
And we do not blindly hope. We have been given glimpses of heaven down through the ages. We only get glimpses because there are not words or images to match what heaven truly is.
Live in this hope always. How do you live into this hope in your lives? Does the hope of the resurrection help you to live today? Does knowing that something better is coming help you to endure the problems of today? These are things we should reflect on periodically and that is one of the reasons for Advent.
Blessings and Peace