The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus meaning “coming”, and refers to the coming of Christ. The practice of observing Advent started around the 4th century, and is a four week anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, his Christmas birth.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be focusing on one of the following themes: Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace. Our first is Hope. Very often there seem to be many reasons not to have hope. Our world is riddled with hopelessness, in more ways than we might think.
The Hopelessness of Presumption
Josef Pieper, a German theologian, wrote a book in the middle of the 20th century called On Hope, and in it he argued that we all tend towards hopelessness in one of two directions. Hopelessness, he says, has two forms—despair and presumption—and we all bend one way or the other. Let’s consider Presumption. Presumption, he says, “is a premature, self-willed anticipation of the fulfillment of what we hope for from God.” I’ll put it in plain language. Presumption is a leap into the future, an insistence that the future be the present. Heaven on earth. It bypasses hope, insisting we have heaven on earth now. Instant fulfillment.
Are we insisting on the future in the present? A little heaven on earth? Are you stockpiling assets for your own security? Insisting on a standard of living that is supported, not by hope, but by irresponsible debt? Driving cars we can’t really afford, renting where we don’t belong, paying bills and buying Christmas gifts on the credit card? We try to eliminate the need for hope in our quest for security and wealth. Presumption refuses hope, it rejects the persevering nature of hope, its arduousness, which makes it so admirable, and as a result, becomes “the fraudulent imitation of hope.” (Pieper) But Christian hope forgoes present joys for the greater future joy. It sacrifices present comfort for the sake of others. It goes not into irresponsible debt but into deliberate generosity.
What could you do this Christmas to express true Xn hope? Pieper notes: “In the sin of presumption, mans desire for security is so exaggerated that it excels the bounds of reality.” Our material desires are exaggerated beyond reality and beyond God’s promise. God never guaranteed a mansion this side of glory. Somehow we forget that Jesus was a homeless messiah, who told us that no disciple is above his master (Luk 6:40). Somehow we forget that he was born in “shit and straw”, surrounded by animals. Somehow we reject the hope of the world in favor of the illusion of security. Choose hope this Advent. Live like you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Instead of hording be giving. Let your life stand out in hope, in the Hope of the World.