This fall I’ve been playing fantasy football for the first time. I’m in a league filled with younger clergy, and most of us have given our teams humorous and theologically-inspired names. (My team is the “Total Depravities”…trust me, it’s hilarious once you’ve read John Calvin. Or maybe not…) Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of Sunday afternoons this fall checking my fantasy score on my phone. It’s been fun, in a totally nerve-wracking way.
Somehow my team made it into the first round of the playoffs, which is taking place as I type. The only thing is, I was seeded against a team that I’m pretty sure is going to win it all. They have Peyton Manning as a quarterback, Reggie Bush as a running back, and a kicker who somehow managed to outscore five of my players combined. Five.
The good news is that the score is currently 130-61, and I still have one player left to play. That means that if Pierre Thomas can just eek out 70 points in tonight’s game, I have a shot of winning this thing. (For perspective, a touchdown is worth 6 points, so I’m going to need him to go for 12 tonight.) I can hope, right?
In Advent we talk a lot about hope, particularly this first week. Hope is what sustains us. It gives us meaning. It tells us that the future is full of blessing, even when all seems loss. But there’s something that those of us who are followers of Christ sometimes forget: there’s a difference between false hope and our hope in Christ.
I am not going to win this fantasy football game tonight. I am going to go ahead and say that with full confidence, no matter how much I hope otherwise. And that’s okay. Sometimes our everyday hopes just don’t work out.
But to say that we have hope in Christ is different than hoping against hope that a football team will score. Our hope in Christ has roots in something just as improbable – that the birth of one baby would lead to new life for the world – but it is sustained not through wishing and wanting alone, but through our belief that in the end Christ’s love alone will triumph over everything.
Hope is not a Hail Mary pass. Not when it comes to Jesus. Christian hope is the belief that because Christ transformed this world through his love once, defying even the grave, anything is possible through his love now. The world can be changed. Grace can be granted. Love can conquer hate. And a culture of pain and violence can become one of resurrection. That is possible. But it means that hope can no longer be passive wishing, but hope must be participatory. To borrow another phrase, hope without works is dead. And so, if we truly believe in this Jesus stuff, our greatest hope mandates our own involvement.
Question: What is one hope you have for this Advent, and what are you doing to participate with Christ in bringing that hope to life?
Prayer: God, help me not just to have hopes, but to hope. Strengthen me to hope into the work you are already doing in the world through Christ. And make me an active participant in your own hopes for us all. Amen.