Number of years ago, I watched the movie, As Good As It Gets. It stars Jack Nicholson as a writer with obsessive compulsive disorder. He is a man of great accomplishments but miserable in his life and miserable to be around! There is a scene where he bursts into his therapist’s office, literally screaming for help. His therapist calms him down but escorts him out to make a proper appointment. As Nicholson’s character walks through the waiting room, he pauses and looks at the people there. He asks out loud “what if this as good as it gets?”
This is an incredibly honest… and hard… question. “Can things get better than what they are at this moment?” This is a question of about hope and hope is essential to living! Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote:
“Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. echoed those sentiments:
“Even in the inevitable moments when all seems hopeless, men know that without hope they cannot really live, and in agonizing desperation they cry for the bread of hope.”
St. Augustine also wrote:
“There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without faith.”
Hope is essential to life. Does faith in Christ give us any hope?
The life, death and resurrection lays out a pattern… and a promise… that gives us hope that this is not as good as it gets. There is more!
More than what I am now; more than how things are now; more to my experience of God now.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling placeof God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Things are not as they should be
There is war, racial strife, inequity, injustice, loss, and grief. I get discouraged. I get particularly disheartened at the state of the church in America and by the character of some of my colleagues in clergy. Many are doing wonderful work but sadly not all. I have been pastoring people who have experienced abuse under spiritual leaders. This may seem harsh but to be blunt there are many insecure, narcissistic, private kingdom builders in pulpits when what they should be are compassionate, loving shepherds. But this is not exclusive to ministry. We see this kind of leadership in business, politics, even in neighborhood associations.
Is this as good as it gets?
This is first Sunday of Advent (advent just means “the arrival”), we begin to celebrate the arrival of God himself in the Christ child. Traditionally, the first Sunday of advent highlights hope: hope for relief… hope for salvation… hope for something better. God came in the flesh to life in this fallen world. And because he loved us, overcame it! He did it by living a perfect life… by offering himself to atone for our failings… by rising from the dead and breaking the curse of the Fall!
And though we walk through a fallen and broken world, experiencing its misery and wounds, Christ will redeem it all!
Resurrection will filter in all aspects of life:
where there is war, there will be peace;
where there is hurt, there will be healing;
where there is death, there will be new life!
Christ will set it all right! He will make all things new!
How things are now is not as good as it gets… there is more! So hope for more… in this life and the next!