Dear friends in Christ. We have just begun the season of Advent. One of the key themes of Advent is hope. Right now, the world around us is also full of hope—the merchants hope this will be a prosperous shopping season; people hope they can get all their presents purchased in time at a decent price; others hope they can get all their decorations up in time and all the special baking done; others hope to make this a truly special Christmas for their loved ones; and others just hope that it will all be done with soon so life can return to normal.
Some of us too may harbor some of these hopes, but as we take time out of our day to gather together around the word for worship, we have a different hope than many around us. Our hope is that which Paul discusses in our text: For we by means of the Spirit, from faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Our hope is the hope of righteousness. And here we have the essence of Advent—Eagerly waiting, in hope, for righteousness.
Advent means “coming.” By its very nature, Advent implies something is not yet here—it is first to come. Advent also implies that since what we are waiting for is not yet here, we are in the meantime earnestly waiting for it to come; looking for it in eager anticipation because we care about it. We don’t wait for things that are already here; nor do not eagerly anticipate something we don’t care about.
Here we can think about all those OT saints who waited for the Savior to come. From Adam and Eve onward, generation after generation of the faithful held firmly to God’s promise to send a Savior from sin and death, Who would reconcile sinful humanity to the true God. Each generation waiting for the Messiah would look back to the promises God made; and, throughout the years, in grace, God would grant additional details about the coming promised Savior to comfort those who were waiting, to assure them that their wait was not in vain. Their hope was the hope of righteousness. They were waiting for the Messiah to come Who would bring them righteousness, Who would be their righteousness, Who would give them that righteousness that they, together with all people, lost in the fall into sin. They were waiting for, longing for, the Immanuel, the God-With-Us. The OT in faith patiently, eagerly waited for the Savior, the hope of Righteousness.
Their hope was not disappointed. The Savior, Christ Jesus, did come! When the Son of God took on human flesh and blood and became also a true human being, that was His First Advent. Their long season of Advent, those thousands of years of eager and patient waiting, was over! Jesus was born and that began His earthly trek ultimately to the cross and then to the empty tomb and the ascension. The hope of righteousness had been realized!
But that then raises the question: why are we waiting eagerly the hope of righteousness? What’s our Advent wait for? Now that Christ has come and become our righteousness, what are waiting for? We are still eagerly waiting for the hope of righteousness because Jesus has promised to come again, in glory, on the Last Day to bring all of His dear Christians, soul and body, into the glory, joy and perfection of heaven. Our wait now is for His Second Coming. So yes, we are now in a position like the OT saints—eagerly and patiently waiting for Jesus; earnestly and patiently waiting the hope of righteousness.
But if Jesus is our Righteousness—and He has already come—why are we still waiting for the hope of righteousness? Didn’t Jesus already bring about righteousness for us? Here is another Advent theme for our lives—now but not yet.
When Jesus, the Hope of Righteousness—came the first time it was precisely for that reason—to be our Righteousness. The OT faithful looked patiently and fervently for the One who would be their righteousness. Jesus did precisely just that. When Jesus took on human flesh and blood in the womb of Mary, He wasn’t conceived in the usual manner. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost without any tinge or stain of sin. All throughout His life, He never once sinned; and by that He perfectly fulfilled every one of God’s holy commandments. –And He did that for us; in our place! That’s why He’s our Righteousness. From the moment of His conception to His final breath on the cross where He willingly laid down His life, He was actively going out to be our Righteousness, and as our Substitute, obeyed the Law of God for us—in every minute detail so that the Law that God’s holiness and righteousness requires to be kept, is. Since we are sinners and have no righteousness of our own to stand before the throne of God, Jesus is now our righteousness. His perfect righteousness is credited to our account. We are, because of and in Jesus, declared righteous.
Not only that, but the sin that we commit each day, and often, sin of thought, word and deed and our sin of simply being other than God would have us to be—all of that was charged to Jesus, credited to Him, and He paid the price for each one of our sins on the cross where He endured for our sin God’s punishment and wrath. Jesus is our righteousness. The OT saints’ Hope of Righteousness, our Hope of righteousness, has come—Jesus was born that first Christmas.
How blessed is our condition now! The OT saints looked with eager anticipation for the hope of righteousness, but the vast majority never saw the Savior, Christ Jesus, their righteousness. They died in the faith, waiting for Him, trusting the righteousness He would be for them and bring about for them and so were saved. We live in the time when Christ had come; the time when He had fulfilled for us all righteousness. We, by faith, cling to and have that righteousness that Jesus brought about. And, on top of that, Jesus comes to us today in His holy Word and Sacrament and actually gives us His righteousness, actually gives the forgiveness, life and salvation He brought about when He came the first time. So that we might be righteous, that God may declare us righteous and welcome us into heaven, He, at the right time, sent Jesus to be our righteousness.
Now, through faith, we have that perfect righteousness of Jesus. It is ours right now; we don’t have to wait for it—and, on top of that, Jesus now comes to us in His Word and Sacrament and continues to give us His righteousness. So, then, why does Paul say in our text: For we by means of the Spirit, from faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness? Why are we eagerly waiting for the hope of righteousness if we are, by faith in Christ, already righteous? The answer to that question—is the now but not yet of Advent. Yes, in Christ, we are righteous; God has so declared it.
But our righteousness is one that is not felt or seen. By faith, by believing God’s word and promise, by trusting in the work of Christ who came that first Christmas to be our righteousness, we know that we are righteous/ holy in the sight of God.
But we don’t see and feel ourselves as being righteous. We look at our lives and see our sin. We feel the accusations of God’s holy Law. With St. Paul we see ourselves not doing the good we, as Christians, want to do; instead, we see ourselves far too often doing the bad thing that as Christians we do not want to do. In Christ, we are perfectly righteous because His righteousness is ours; but in and of ourselves we are far from righteous.
That’s why we eagerly and patiently wait for the hope of righteousness. That means in our everyday lives we long to hear the Lord’s word which proclaims the word and work of Christ to us and gives us His righteousness; that’s why we long to be in church to receive the forgiveness of our sins and the righteousness of Christ in the absolution; and to receive that forgiveness and righteousness in the Holy Supper.
Here we come to that other Advent theme: repentance. In repentance, we recognize and confess our sinfulness, but Christ comes to us in His Word of Absolution and in the Holy Supper and gives us forgiveness of sin and life; gives us the righteousness that we lack and that God demands of us. That’s the story of our lives as Christians in this world—confessing our sin, receiving Jesus’ righteousness and forgiveness, rejoicing in it, striving against sin but yet sinning again, confessing that sin, receiving once again Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness, and cycle repeats itself.
So, yes, our righteousness is now—we have it; we have Christ’s perfect righteousness—and our righteousness is not yet—we are still, in and of ourselves, far from righteous and daily sin much. That’s why we by means of the Spirit, from faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. We await the day that we will be perfectly holy and righteous—and that will be the Last Day; the day Jesus comes again and takes us, soul and body, with Him into heaven. Then we will finally be rid of our old sinful nature; then we will no longer sin; then we will no longer have to fight our spiritual enemies. In the meantime, we wait patiently and long for Jesus’ coming when, on the Last Day, our righteousness will be revealed.
St. John writes [1 John 3.2]: We are now God’s children, but it hasn’t yet been shown what we’re going to be. We know that when it will be shown, we’ll be like Him because we’ll see Him as He is. We await the full actualization in heaven of God’s gift to us now of forgiveness and righteousness. By faith we are now assured of God’s final verdict on us of “not guilty, righteous”; but on the Last Day it will be clear and confirmed.
That’s why we by means of the Spirit, from faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Unlike the world’s hope, which is uncertain—I hope to get all my shopping, decorating, baking done—our hope of righteousness is certain. Our hope, what we put our trust in, is certain. This certainty, this hope, grows out of faith. It trusts in and receives God’s Word and promise. The Holy Spirit works this certain hope in us; and He does so by the Word. By the Word He assures us that all God’s promises are true—even the promise of righteousness, that even though we sin we are forgiven and declared righteous. We are, by Spirit worked faith, certain that Jesus will come on the Last Day and that then, at long last, we will be perfectly righteous, holy and sinless in heaven.
Our hope of righteousness is certain because it is grounded on the mercy of God. Just as the OT saints looked forward, eagerly waiting for the Savior to come and be their righteousness, because they trusted in the promise of God because He is merciful, so also do we look forward to Jesus’ return in glory on the Last Day and that perfect righteousness that is ours because God is merciful to us in Christ, not giving us what we deserve but dealing with us in grace.
So, in the meantime, until Christ returns in glory we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. This hope that we have—this certain trust and confidence in the word of the Lord and in the work of Christ our righteousness—keeps us looking forward eagerly to Jesus’ return. This hope is nurtured and encouraged as we see that the Lord was faithful to His promise to His OT saints to send a Savior who would be their righteousness; this hope is nurtured and encouraged as Christ keeps coming to us now in His Word and Sacrament giving us His righteousness. May we keep listening quietly and attentively to our Lord in this Advent season as we by means of the Spirit, from faith, eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. INJ