From the very beginning they were looking forward. The story was passed down how that, on the very day that the world was blighted, God had promised that one day the seed of their enemy, the serpent, would be crushed by the seed of the woman. Some forgot, or didn’t care, but others remembered, and, around the fire at night, or when they paused in the heat of the day’s toil, sometimes they would take out that old story and wonder what it meant. They never doubted it meant something.
Centuries passed and wickedness grew, until the time of the flood. Then, after that time of terror, God gave them another promise of mercy and sealed it with a rainbow. Again, they took heart and fresh courage from the promise.
Then there came a man called Abram, old and childless, and called by God to be homeless as well. To this man God promised offspring through whom the whole world would be blessed. Abram in faith believed, and a new chapter of hope for humanity began in the empty desert spaces.
The years passed and the promises multiplied. To the descendants of Abram, now Abraham, would come one who was anointed by God for a task of redemption that no one else could accomplish. He would be a king like David, a prophet like Moses, the secret arrow polished by the Lord. He would bring in a kingdom that could never fail, he would be despised and rejected, he would come to set the captives free. And some cared nothing for these promises, but others hoped and trusted that one day the Consolation of Israel would arrive.
And he came, and the world esteemed him not, but others would be able to say later that they beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. And he died and was buried, and rose again from the dead and ascended to the Father, leaving behind him a new hope: that some day he would come again, and in that day there would be a new heaven and new earth, and every tear would be wiped away forever. And meanwhile? Death had been overcome, sin had been atoned for, and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, had come to dwell in their hearts.
And so they hoped, and for 2,000 years they have continued to hope. They have hoped in the midst of persecution – thrown to the lions, executed by machine gun, enduring every cruelty that those who hated them could conceive. They have hoped in the midst of plenty, when the siren song of this world’s satisfactions almost drowned out the whisper of their praise; they have hoped in the midst of scarcity, praying desperately for daily bread for themselves and their children. They have hoped as they had to make stark moral choices, and as they blundered through mazes of moral uncertainty. They have hoped resting quietly in the sure love of the Father, and they have hoped as their old enemy whispered in their ear that they were forsaken. They have hoped in their laughter, and hoped in their tears, and hoped yet in that grey, exhausted place where neither laughter or tears have any meaning. And in hope they have persevered, they have loved, they have learned to forgive and be forgiven. And in hope they have prayed, down through the centuries, the same heartfelt prayer: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done ...”