One of my favourite lines in any book (or movie based on a book), is found in The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. Just before the battle for Helm’s Deep, Gandalf tells the departing Aragorn, ‘Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.’ At the height of the battle, when all seems lost, Gandalf arrives and with him brings the light and hope of victory. It’s a tub-thumping moment in the great story. I remember reading it as a ten year old boy and being profoundly moved by it. It was six years before I became a follower of Jesus. I was a young boy, and the powerful picture of light shining out and conquering the darkness inspired me. Many years later, when I watched the movie (directed by Peter Jackson) of The Two Towers I was deeply impacted by the depiction of Gandalf’s arrival at Helm’s Deep. I lept from my seat and yelled ‘Yes’ in a packed cinema. It was marvellous, and embarrassing, since I was the only one that reacted so publicly!
I think my response is rooted in the fundamental ‘hope’ that good triumphs over evil, that light triumphs over darkness. And of course this profound hope sits at the very heart of the Judeo-Christian hope. No matter how long it takes, no matter how hard the battle, our theological conviction is that good will win in the end. We hold on to this. Within the Christian Tradition, this is what sits at the very heart of Advent, and of course the Incarnation. As a follower of Christ, my hope is rooted in His coming and His return.
Governments will come and go. Prime Ministers will arrive at Downing Street, full of hope and rhetoric and optimism, and will one day leave. The great political achievements of democracy and social policy will be lauded by one generation and attacked by another. Political theories and new, exciting solutions will arrive with glittering possibilities and lose their lustre – eventually. Whether it be the Marquess of Salisbury, Arthur Balfour, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Herbert Asquith, David Lloyd-George, Andrew Bonar Law, Ramsay MacDonald, Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlin, Winston Churchill, Clement Atlee, Anthony Eden, Harold MacMillan, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Ted Heath, Jim Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May or Boris Johnston; leaders come and leaders go. They each carry hopes and aspirations in their breasts. But they cannot change the heart. They cannot overcome the deep despair and challenge of the human condition because they are not saviours.
Only God can light inextinguishable hope in the human soul. Advent and Incarnation remind me that this is precisely what God has done. This is the only hope that will last. It is the foundation of the hope that we need. This hope, this unshakable conviction, sits at the heart of Christian hopefulness, a much more profound conviction than human optimism. It is rooted in Christian faith.
We long for God more than all else, because God is the One we need above all others. God’s life and hope and God’s promised deliverance, shown to us in Christ and promised to us in Christ, is what we live in now, and what we celebrate today; but it is also what we long for above all else.
So, Lord, we wait. Some may trust in horses, and some may trust in chariots. Some may trust in politicians and some may trust in military might. Some may trust in activism and some may trust in theories. Some may trust in money and some may trust in power. Some may trust in public opinion and some may trust in popularity.
We trust in the Name of the Lord. We work for good, as it it all depends upon us. We pray for good, knowing it all depends on God.
And we wait for the Lord. Our Ultimate Hope and Source of Life
(C) Malcolm J. Duncan (Advent 2019)
I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.Psalm 130:6, New Living Translation