Advent Reflection: Romans 8
But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:24-28)
Hope is used in both as a verb and as a noun (“Hope that is seen” versus “Who hopes?”) I like the verb part. I can do something about the wait, I can become more patient for that thing I hope for. I can grow in my hope as I mature, have more experiences, see more hopeless situations turn around. As I grow in faith, I understand more and more where to put my hope. There’s a lot I can do to hope.
But the noun part is compelling as well because my hope is that I don’t have to do everything. It is the Holy Spirit at work, interceding for us through wordless groans, trying to give us some help when we are at the end of our rope or confused about what to do next.
And the intercession the Spirit does on our behalf isn’t random or a shot in the dark, it’s in accordance with God’s will. What a great hope that is! As I wonder and as I wander, the Holy Spirit is at work praying to the father on my behalf.
And not only is the Spirit at work, but God the father is at work working for the good of those who love him. He is actively taking the pieces of my life that I can and cannot piece together and making something purposeful, intentional, good.
And that good he does is simply because I have been called according to his purpose, which is being in relationship with God, and committed to following his ways.
And at the end of the chapter we find out that while the Father and the Spirit are at work, our relationship with God through Christ can never end because of what Christ has already done for us on the cross.("Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ...")
As we hope at Christmas time, there are some things on our list to do. But apparently there are things on God’s list that he’s already doing on my behalf, and the Spirit is acting as a healthy nag to remind him what it is I wanted in the first place.
Hope the verb and hope the noun intersect at Christmas. We are reminded of our need to hope in the Lord, and also to remember that our hope is not what we do, but what God promises to do and has already done for us in Christ.