7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
10 and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11 and again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
12 and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15: 4-13
“I hope it goes well.” “I hope you had a good birthday.” “Hopefully I can make it.” “I hoped the Tar Heels would win last night.” “I hope you’re feeling better.” “He’s hopeless without her!” “We have hiiigh hopes. Yes, we have hiiigh hopes. Yes, we have high apple pie in the skyyy hopes!”
Hope is a well-worn word in our daily lexicon. Maybe so well-worn it’s a little worn-out at times, lacking in force and meaning. Often hope is a synonym for wishful thinking, a passing promise, or a hasty greeting.
That’s not the hope the apostle Paul has in mind in today’s text. His is a hope rooted in the soil of the Scriptures, especially in God’s Word that encourages us with the prophecy and promise of Christ to both Jew and Gentile.
Paul wanted believers in Rome to know that hope, to celebrate that hope, to live into that hope. To live into it by living as one people, by welcoming one another, whether Jew or Gentile, strong or weak, to the glory of God.
We can put it like this: Paul wanted believers to sing in harmony, to praise God with one voice for what he’s done for all people in Christ Jesus our Lord! In fact, three of the four texts Paul quotes in verses 9-12 use verbs such as “sing,” rejoice,” and “praise.”
You’d think that wouldn’t be hard to do during the Advent and Christmas season, the “most wonderful time of the year.” But we know better. In Charles Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” a couple of men visit Scrooge at his office on Christmas Eve to solicit contributions for the poor. One of the men says to Scrooge: “This is a time of year when hope suffers.”
Yes, it is. And so does peace and harmony. There are many reasons why: pressure to pick the perfect presents, the painful absence of loved ones, family dysfunctions and frustrations, and other things that weigh on us. It’s why churches hold “Blue Christmas” services. It’s why “It’s a Wonderful Life” plays on a million channels every day this time of year: it’s a timeless tale of hope, a hope that echoes the greatest tale of hope ever told, the Hope of the world born on Christmas Day.
One of the best gifts we can give this time of year is to live into our deeply-rooted hope in the coming Lord by living in peace and harmony with our maddening mother, unforgiving father, nosy neighbor, or whomever it is we tend to spurn. We can’t do this on our own. Paul knows that. We need the Spirit to “abound” in that hope (v. 13).
As you traverse the rest of this Advent journey, how can you live into that hope in your own life? How can you welcome people, especially difficult people and outsiders, “just as Christ welcomed you” (v. 7)? In what ways can you sing in tune with God by singing in harmony with others? Ask the Spirit to help you do that this Advent and Christmas and into the new year.
A prayer for this day:
God of Advent and Christmas, we thank you for this opportunity to reflect on your holy Word and to pray. By your Spirit, help us live into the sure and certain hope that we have in Christ by living as one with people, by welcoming them as your Son welcomed us, by helping us to sing in tune with you by singing in harmony with everyone, to your praise and glory. Amen.
Rev. Dr. William E. W. Robinson (Ph. D., 2015)
Salem Presbyterian Church