As Christians we talk a lot about hope, but what is it? Seems to me that if we can't speak about hope - if we can't communicate it with others - then there's little hope for the Church!
If our hope is eternity sitting on a cloud playing a blessed harp then I think I might opt for something a little more attractive: I've always fancied halls filled with real ale, well-endowed women and a bit of carousing myself. But it isn't either of those things, this hope stuff, it's about something very different indeed.
Our hope stems from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
Our hope finds its fulifillment in a full-on, engaged and worshipping life as the people of God now and in the New Jerusalem, that holy city where we will commune with Him, and worship before Him for eternity.
Heaven is eternity in God's presence and hell is separation from God. It's a bit like living in the sun or in a cave!
Hope in Jesus begins with us singing 'O come, o come, Emmanuel' as people looking to be 'right with God' and to know His healing and life giving presence and ends with us looking to the east, as the new day is heralded in and the darkness is dispelled, with the words 'Come Lord Jesus, come!'.
Last night I was quite taken up with an analogy of the Christian life in which coming to faith is like passing our driving test. Having done so we get into the car that is our earthly life and set off for home (which is heaven, our eternity with God): The challenge is for us to get there with as few collisions, scrapes and ditches driven into as possible and to have broken as few people as possible on the way.
But we are not a people of fear. For too long we have peddled the Christ as some cosmic 'get out of hell free' card and have cudgelled people into living rightly with the threat of hell and damnation. So much for a God of love! But He is and He, seeing our sins, calls us to take remedial driving lessons as the car is pulled out of the ditch and the cyclist we've hit is rescued from the tree, but he doesn't take away the car or put up a 'road closed' sign. He doesn't tot up the penalty points to take away our licence, but looks to restoration and better driving skills - using others to restore us gently (Gal 6) so that they don't end up with road rage because of our errors.
And we make our journey by means of the Holy Spirit - who navigates and keeps our tanks full - and our Highway Code - the Bible - ensures that we keep to the limits and avoid crossing the wrong lines.
This, surely is our hope!