The Power of Expectation

An Advent message, urging us to look to the future and the coming of God’s kingdom.

Eberhard Arnold wrote this Advent message, which was printed in their periodical Das Neue Werk, in 1920. This was the community's first Christmas together. It urges us to look to the future and the coming of God’s kingdom.

Whoever lives in God does not look behind him, but forward. Whoever is alive (whoever does not fall prey to the deathly atrophy of his inner life) does not look backward – be it over the short span of his own life or the greater span of history – to find a realization of his longing. He looks forward, toward the goal, toward the destiny of humanity as it should be and as it shall be. He who puts his hand to the plow looks forward. He lives “now” in the future. He who looks back and loses himself in historical speculation and his own inner reveries is not fit for God’s kingdom (see Luke 9:62).

The expectation of God’s future is as all-embracing as it is unshakably certain; it cannot be a passive waiting, a cozy and soft occupation with self and with one’s small circle of like-minded friends. No, this expectation is divine power – a uniting with the powers of the future that are present here and now. This is our hope: the assurance that the social justice of the future is effective now wherever Jesus himself holds sway.

The Lord is the Spirit, and the Spirit frees us from oppression of all kinds (2 Cor. 3:17). The spirit of expectation is the spirit of action because it is the spirit of faith. Faith is bravery. Faith is reality. He who has faith cannot believe that anything is impossible, since faith is what gives us the clear vision of life’s ultimate powers. It discloses God’s heart to us as the pulse of the entire living creation, and it gives us the conviction that the secret of life is love.

Anyone who lives in this love can never exhaust himself in psychological introspection or in narrow conventionality. He is concerned about the events of present history; he shares in all movements that in any way express the longing for the kingdom of the future. A person who is gripped by the experiences of faith and of love, by the expectation of Christ and his second coming, must act. For God’s love is so boundless that it applies to public life just as much as to the individual heart, to the economic as much as to political affairs.

He who has this expectation will be purified in his conscience with the purity of the One whom he expects. There is nothing that heightens the conscience more than this expectation. It eliminates all relativity. It overcomes every timid weakness, especially that indolence that causes us to throw up our arms and accept things as they are. This expectation enables us to live so securely in the future world that we, as its heralds, must dare here and now to live in accord with the unconditional character of God’s future.

Advent hope is a certainty of faith that shows itself in action through mutual responsibility for the whole of life. The church of Christ is the fellowship of this hope. It believes so unreservedly that it is convinced that the divine must conquer the demonic, that love must conquer hate, that the all-embracing must conquer the isolated. Certainty tolerates no limitation. God embraces everything. When we trust in him for the future, we trust for the present. When we have faith in him, our faith holds true for everything that touches our lives.

As published in When the Time Was Fulfilled (Rifton, NY: Plough, 2007). Read the original text in our digital archive.

Article edited for length and clarity.