Culture At Large

Advent All Around: Modern prophets and bold hope

Rod Hugen

This is the first installment in Advent All Around, a Think Christian series that sees reflections of Advent in the culture at large.

Tony Nitti, writing for Forbes Magazine about the upcoming fiscal cliff, tells us that it is “the convergence of two events on Dec. 31, 2012 - the expiration of almost every tax cut enacted since 2001 and an empowered reduction in government spending - that, if the experts are to be believed, when taken together will threaten to bankrupt America, shift the world balance of power and knock Earth off its orbit, sending it hurtling through cold, dark space.”

We listen to prophets such as Nitti foretell of the financial horrors that await us in 2013 and it almost makes us long for the Mayan calendar to be right and have the world come to a screeching halt on Dec. 21, 2012. I think I’ll postpone my Christmas shopping until Dec. 22 just in case...

Prophets predict ominous and hopeless futures. They tell us jobless rates will be higher or the stock market will be down or that the Phoenix Suns basketball team will not make the playoffs now that the Lakers have stolen their beloved point guard. (OK, I might be a little bitter about that last one.) Prophets most often predict doom and gloom. If the prophet happens to be right, she or he does a happy dance making sure folks know how smart they are. If they are wrong they hesitate to admit it and if they do, they almost always mention unforeseen mitigating factors that led them to not paint the future correctly. Yet the future is almost always hopeless and apocalyptic. The prophet is the guy holding the sign that reads “The world is ending!” unless, of course, he can get you to part with a couple bucks for a good prediction about the future of your love life or some grand increase in your bank account. After all, prophets need to make a living, too.

Prophets predict ominous and hopeless futures. They tell us jobless rates will be higher or the stock market will be down or that the Phoenix Suns will not make the playoffs now that the Lakers have stolen their beloved point guard.

Biblical prophets were a strange lot. They told the truth. They spoke God’s words to the people. They endured horrific visions and spoke awful predictions to kings and commoners alike. Because they spoke the truth, they suffered and died. Still, woven through their dire predictions is a thread: a thread of reconciliation, a hint of a brighter day, a taste of a future full of bright hope. In the middle of calamity, devastation and harsh judgment, they spoke the truth of One who would come to set things right.

As we dangle on the edge of a fiscal cliff, amid wars in the Middle East, with Mayan threats hanging over our heads, we might imagine that we are still looking forward to that great day when things will be made right. Yet, in the hearts of those who know that the Messiah has come, there lies a crazy kind of hope. A hope unlike the silly, groundless hope that predicts the fortunes of the Phoenix Suns this year. No, we have a unique hope, a realized hope, a hope that is an already accomplished hope. A hope grounded not in wishful thinking, but in the One who has come and is coming and will come again irrespective of the rocks at the bottom of the fiscal cliff, or even death itself.

As we look forward to the celebration of Christmas, we stand boldly as prophets of joy speaking to those living in fear of this one true hope. The story threading its way through Scripture culminates in Jesus coming to rescue us. So join the story. Go prophesy! Speak boldly! Tell the truth! Tell of the hope that is in you.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Christmas & Easter