The Season of Advent is upon us. It is a time of waiting: waiting for the arrival of Christmas Day; waiting for the advent of Jesus Christ into the world, once upon a time in Bethlehem, and over and over again into our hearts.
It is, also a time of remembering. It is a time that recalls the old, old and ever so precious story of that holy birth. The season evokes other memories, as well, some lovely and bright, some ugly and dark, and some are bittersweet memories of people, now gone, with whom we once shared this season.
In my own life, December includes significant days that remind me of parents, now deceased, and such reminders, somehow heightened by the Season, can lead to a kind of melancholy. For some of us, the memories the Season brings forth, can spiral into a deep, and dark sadness.
Advent, culminating on Christmas Eve, is the time in the church year when we light candles into that darkness, as we watch and wait together for the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us. We hear the profound truth that Christians for millennia have whispered into even the most consuming darkness: In Jesus, there is hope. We are not alone.
Embracing the light of hope when we cannot see the road ahead, and are unsure where it leads, is a remarkable leap of faith. It is an exercise in trust, trust that God’s good promises will be fulfilled, and trust in God’s loving presence with us, in all the circumstances of life.
Hope is the person whose life is being cut short by cancer, yet commits to living every moment with bold compassion. Hope is the person who, out of a forgiving, loving heart reaches out to repair a strained relationship despite hurt and anger. Hope is an unwed mother in Galilee who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, and sings a subversive song of praise to God in spite of her fear.
The profound hope brought to us in Christ doesn’t come in a neat, clean, gift-wrapped package with a bow on top. It comes to us in the form of a vulnerable, tiny, baby, born in a stable to unwed parents on a cold winter’s night. It reminds us that Christian hope is messy, but with just a little bit of boldness, it can conquer even the darkest night.
Where are the dark places in your life? This Advent, will you take a leap of faith, trusting in God, and living into the hope that the story of the birth of Jesus brings to us?
For in Advent we wait in the darkness, for light; we wait in sadness, for joy; we wait in sickness, for healing; we wait in suffering, for relief. Yet, not only do we ‘wait for’, we also ‘wait with’. We wait with others with whom we experience mutual support, understanding, love. This includes family and friends and neighbours and should also include the community of faith to which we belong. Especially if we are alone having no one to wait with us, the community of faith can offer such support. And, most significantly, as people of faith, we wait with God, who is present to us, providing us with comfort, strength, courage, and patience in our waiting.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel declares that famous old Advent hymn. Should we find ourselves struggling, for one reason or another, in this Advent Season, during this time of waiting and remembering, may we do trusting that, indeed, Emmanuel will come to each and every one of us in these holy seasons of Advent and Christmas and beyond.