This Sunday we begin the Advent season. "Advent" comes from the Latin, adventus, which is means "coming." Waiting is a big part of the message of Christ. For hundreds and thousands of years people waited for the coming of the Messiah, yet we often find a struggle waiting a few days for Christmas to come.
However, I must say that Advent is not only about waiting. Probably a more important message is the fact that Advent is a time of preparation or building. I think back to my favorite toys of my childhood, Lego’s and my Matchbox cars. While as toys I used them interchangeably, both required a great deal of work and effort to create. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that I had far more fun creating the towns and roads for my Matchbox cars and the buildings and spaceships of my Lego’s, than I did in playing with them when they were created.
Advent is about creating a place in our hearts so that when the time of waiting has come to an end we might find and connect with God on a much deeper level. Granted, this has nothing to do with the music played or the commercial side of the season. It has to do with the steps we take to prepare our individual hearts for the coming of Christ.
In our church, the Advent wreath is one way that we prepare. Each Sunday we light a candle; traditionally the candles represent: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Each week as we light the candle we are called to explore inwardly the relevance. From that reflection we see the importance of each expression of faith in our hearts. This helps us to grow, for every time we engage the spiritual struggle we come to new understandings and insights of faith.
This Sunday our focus is hope. I think Hope is something that is really becoming difficult for many in our society. Whether it is the draw to only live in the moment or a sense of a helpless future, I think hope is fleeting for many. I think this is where, a few years back, a friend of mine in his despair asked me what hope was. My quick answer was that hope (in the Christian sense) was trusting that God would make good on his promises. It was fairly spot on to the dictionary definition that Hope is:
The Christian anticipation of the future as the fulfillment of God’s purposes based on God’s covenant faithfulness and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as known by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
I like to think of hope as the beginning of a deeper faith. Think about it for a second; without even a modicum of hope, it is hard to go anywhere with faith because there is nowhere to go. Faith without hope is ultimately empty. This is why tradition starts with hope at the beginning of the Advent season. Everything that follows in the Advent season starts with hope in the promises of God.  The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by Donald K. McKim
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen