Today is the first day of Advent—and I love Advent. Advent is that 4-week period of anticipation for the coming of Christmas; for the time when people all around the globe come together to remember the coming of the Light of Christ into the world, for that time when we are actively waiting for Christmas; for a time that has many different meanings to every one of us.
Each of the four weeks of Advent is centered around a central message, and this—the first week of Advent—reminds us of the importance of Hope. Google defines “hope” as a noun meaning “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen,”—which seems very fitting for the Advent season. Alternatively, it can mean “a person or thing that may help or save someone,”—and here again we return to the Light of Christ, or to the Christ child. The third and final definition Google gives for “hope” as a noun is “grounds for believing that something good may happen,”—and once again, I think this perfectly defines the spirit of Advent, perhaps even better than the other two seemingly perfect definitions.
When we turn on the news or scroll through social media, or when we talk to others in our communities, it can be easy to lose hope and fall into a state of hopelessness. When people begin to lose hope, they stop “believing that something good may happen.” When this happens, we can rightly be said to have fallen into a place of darkness. But if we can get one small flame of hope, just one small candle burning in the darkness of despair, we can begin to see again. We can see that while things can be hard and the world around us may seem overwhelming, that there is a light of hope that can light our way. When we remember that “something good may happen,” we can strengthen our faith and regain the strength to work toward building a better world, one day at a time—one moment at a time.
If we allow the Light of Christ to shine in our times of darkness, we can follow that light toward a path of justice, of love, of mercy, and of liberation, but all of that requires us to find hope. Hope is that which keeps movements going through insurmountable odds. I believe that each of us carries within us that of God, and I believe that hope is what allows us to see that of God in the people and creation around us.
Advent is a time to hope for the coming of the Light in the darkness. Advent is a time to look forward to spending time with our families when Christmas gets here. Advent is a time of “expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen,”—hope for the coming of Christ’s Light into the world. Advent is a time for waiting for “a person or thing that may help or save” us—for our Christ Child, Emmanuel.
Holy and Gracious God, we pray that as we light this candle so, too, will a fire of Hope be kindled in our hearts. May we hold this Hope gently, as we are urged to stay awake and be ready for a most amazing event! As we prepare to receive the Christ Child, may we be ever mindful of our love for you, and Yours for us. This will keep the flames of Hope burning in this Advent season. We pray all this in the name of Emmanuel. Amen.