One of the things that I have learned during my first year of working in a church is that Christmas comes earlier in the church than anywhere else. Well, maybe not before Costco, but pretty much everywhere else. I’m guessing that’s partly because of having to plan ahead for special Christmas services, but also because it’s within the church that we recognize Advent. Derived from the Latin word for “coming”, the four weeks of Advent preceding Christmas look to both remembering Christ’s incarnation here on earth over 2,000 years ago, as well as looking forward to when He returns again.
On this first Sunday of Advent, coming up in a couple of days, we focus on the theme of hope. Hope is a strange concept, with a spectrum of different meanings. One of the definitions I found was “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”
Reasonable confidence – that’s an interesting phrase. I have reasonable confidence in a lot of things, such as the fact that supper will likely happen at my house tonight. I mean, I don’t know who’s making it yet or what it will be or if it will even be very good, but I am reasonably confident that I will go to bed tonight, having eaten some form of supper.
While that might work in my house regarding supper, “reasonable confidence” is not nearly strong enough for a lot of other aspects of life, and is certainly not the hope that we celebrate this first Sunday of Advent. Rather, the hope that Jesus brings comes with absolute certainty. It is this hope, this promise of faithfulness, that carries us through even the darkest days.
The author of the letter of the Hebrews in the New Testament speaks of this hope like this: “…God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” (Heb. 6:18-19, NLT).
A strong and trustworthy anchor – that sounds a lot more reassuring that reasonable confidence, doesn’t it? In a world that is filled with uncertainty, we can cling to the strong and resolute hope of a faithful God – what a gift!
What is this hope? That what we see around us is not all there is, that there is a better life to come, a new heaven and a new earth. We celebrate that hope as we remember that Christ came to earth as one of us, to bringing hope and salvation.
We are surrounded by reminders of this hope, if our eyes are open to see it – fresh clean air after a rainstorm, new crops pushing through the dirt in the spring, the pure joy in a baby’s smile. All reminders that this is not it – because of the sacrifice of Christ, we have hope for the future.
As we head into this Advent season, open your eyes to the glimpses of hope around you and whisper of prayer of thanks for the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.