“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things” (1 Pet. 1:10-12)
Today’s text reminds us that longing for the Advent of Christ is a very ancient tradition, going back dozens of generations before Christ. As Martin Luther describes, “The beloved prophets had a longing in their hearts for the grace and salvation that was promised in Christ … they sighed for it with a deep longing of their hearts … with a delight and joy in the promises.”
The Hebrew-Christian tradition has always been one of waiting, hoping, longing. Since the Garden of Eden, we’ve been awaiting the ultimate recapitulation of all things, whereby life in Eden could be experienced again. Melchizedek’s ministry, Abraham’s visions, Jacob’s wrestling, Joseph’s dreams, Moses deliverance, Joshua’s conquests, Samuel’s faithfulness, David’s glory, the return from Exile … all of these were tastes of redemption along the way, that whet the appetites of the prophets for the most fulfilling taste of all:
“[The prophets] were satisfied in that they saw and knew from afar the grace and salvation that should be experienced by the whole world through Christ, and they also comforted themselves with it.”
The prophets knew that all of God’s salvific, covenantal acts came to a crescendo in the coming of the Christ! Luther claims that, though they longed to see His coming, they were in the meantime satisfied and comforted in their hope.
Yes, Christ came. We beheld the glory of God in the face of His Son, and received the deposit on our eternal salvation, the promised Holy Spirit. But, Jesus left! And we are left once again in our hope – this time, for His second coming.
“[The prophets] served they us by explaining and developing those promises more richly and fully. … they did it in service and love to us, in order that we might go to them to school and learn also the same lesson.”
I’ve got to admit it … I’m not a very good “hoper”. I don’t like to wait. I want what I want, and I want it now. As the proverb states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Prov. 13:12). And who wants a sick heart? But the second half of that proverb tells us that “a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” The heartache, the longing, the not-yet of our salvation – it’s all part of the package.
A final thought. Christmases past. My memories are about presents under the tree…of peaking into the corners…of wondering, dreaming, and longing for Christmas Day, when we would get the thrill of having what we hoped for. I find it interesting that I remember the days before Christmas fondly. And the days after Christmas, well, kind of depressing. I do believe the days of hope were the richest of the season.
Maybe I’m closer to getting this whole hope thing than I thought.