What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.I Peter 1:3-5, The Message
I find it more than a bit ironic that on this eve of Jesus’ birth, I am thinking about death.
Not in a fearful way, mind you, but in a curious way. In a hopeful way.
I’m chewing on Peter’s words in this text, where he writes that “because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life.” The practice of baptism was meant to give us a way to participate in the life-saving work Jesus did on our behalf. It’s like Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4, this is how baptism works:
“When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!”
In the waters of baptism, we are “buried” beneath the weight of our sin just as Jesus was held down for days by the sins of humankind. But the story doesn’t end there! Jesus rose triumphant over sin and death, and as we emerge from the baptismal waters (or feel the drip, drip, drip of the water that’s been sprinkled on our heads), his victory ensures that we have “everything to live for, including a future in heaven.”
Jesus’ death, and resurrection three days later, ushered in the Kingdom of God. Not just the symbolic Kingdom of God, but the actual Kingdom!
Do you feel it? The thrill of hope?!
And just when we think it can’t get any better, Peter points out that this future “in heaven” has already begun! We aren’t waiting for some obscure, distant date for heaven to be revealed – that “future starts now!”
So, why do we allow the fear of death to exercise its power over us, to diminish our enthusiasm for the life we’ve been given? Why are we resigned to walking around with that raincloud overhead, weighing ourselves down with all of the worries and what-if’s? In some inexplicable way, you and I are already living with one foot in heaven while the other trods along the often unpredictable paths of this life.
Do you realize that this strange, dual citizenship is exactly what we’ve been praying for, in Jesus’ own words? “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Since my Dad passed away last year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the inevitable finality of this life. I’ll admit there have been times I’ve gotten stuck in a doom-loop, questioning the value of what’s left to be lived and bemoaning the fact that this life, as I get older, seems to be so incredibly brief… How much of a difference can one person make, anyways? Why try so hard? Why bother?
This kind of thinking resonates within a worldview that says heaven is somewhere else, but everything changes when we realize that on the inside, we’ve already died and been raised to new life in Jesus. In a very real sense, although it may sound utterly ridiculous right now, the hard part is over! Eternity has already begun.
For those of us who are alive in this heaven, come hell or high water, we can’t help but catch a glimpse of God’s promised healing and wholeness in the little bundle of joy we celebrate tonight, swaddled in cloths and napping in a feeding trough. One life, about to change the world through people like you and me.
People who together form one imperfect, eclectic family.
People who choose to follow (as best we can) in the footsteps of Jesus: our One Great Hope.
Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me that I belong with you. Thank you for the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and for inviting me into your Kingdom as it unfolds around me in real-time today. Keep careful watch over me and my loved ones on this holy night, and prepare room in my heart to receive the gift of Jesus – my One Great Hope. Amen.
Brita Hammit lives in Phoenix, AZ
I can’t even begin to express the joy, gratitude and – yes! – HOPE this devotional series has generated in me. Thank you, writers, for baring your souls and sharing your hearts in such beautiful ways over the past 28 days. Thanks, too, to our readers and small group participants. As God so clearly told me in prayer back on Day 6, “Something holy is happening here. Don’t miss it!”
Advent continues as we wait for the revelation of Jesus’ presence in the future-that-starts-now. Don’t miss what he is doing in the present! Don’t keep our One Great Hope all to yourself!
I would love your feedback about this One Great Hope experience! Please use the comment section below, or email me at email@example.com to share your thoughts and stories.