ADVENT: NOUN /ˈadv(ə)nt The coming or arrival of any person or thing considered significant. In Christian Theology: the coming of Christ to the world. (From the Oxford English Dictionary)
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent marks the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In the Christian Church we mark these Sundays as we look to the celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day.
On each of the four Sundays we take time to reflect upon God’s character and how these are demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of HOPE.
Have you ever hoped for something? Have you ever hoped against hope for it? Maybe it was a present wanted when you were a child. Maybe it was to travel and see a land beyond your own. Maybe you’ve hoped for a reconciliation in a relationship. Perhaps you’ve hoped to hold a loved one who is no longer within your grasp.
There is HOPE.
Speaking of Jesus’ arrival, the Scriptures tell us: “The people walking darkness have seen a great light.” You see, that was a prophecy. It is not a prediction of what might a happen in the future, but a PROMISE of God. God always keeps his promises. The people of Israel were longing for the fulfillment of God’s promises. They didn’t know when it would come, but with great expectation, the were expecting the Advent of his promises.
Life was hard for them. They were denied the opportunity to live as a free people. Many of them had barely enough to get by. Many were separated from loved ones by forces beyond their control. Relationships were broken and they were longing for them to be healed. Where would they find hope on this Earth?
Would it come in the overthrowing of government? Would it come in passing of a few new laws? Would it come from human effort and good deeds?
They had tried all of these and found themselves walking in darkness, a great darkness. They needed a great light. They needed a miracle. We throw the word “miracle” around too lightly. Sports announcers search for a word to describe a great catch or an amazing run or a remarkable save. Let’s not reduce “miracle” to describe the outcome of human effort in a fleeting contest of skill. Despite our best efforts, those things do not last. They are exciting for the moment and we can celebrate them, but miracles are so much more.
The people were longing for peace, for reconciliation, for justice, for assurance. These could not and would not come from any of their own efforts. They needed a miracle. They could be assured that it would come, oh, but when and how? Since God always keeps his promises, they were a people of HOPE.
All of us need to remember that there is always hope. That’s the message of Christmas–that hope comes in a person: Jesus Christ. By his birth, death, and resurrection we can share in this hope as well. This hope is available to all who will put the HOPE in him. For that we long for the arrival of Christmas.
This Advent season, our family finds ourselves in a place we did not expect to be even a few months ago. The journey has not always been as we thought it would be, but God has always been faithful. He has given us HOPE here as we celebrate a greater HOPE. To mark the Sunday of HOPE we will put us some Christmas decorations. We will light our a candle to represent the great light that has come into the world. We will read the promises of HOPE God gives. We will sing a Christmas Carol to remind us.
How will you mark this season of HOPE? I pray that you may know the great HOPE that God offers us all.